Aircraft manufacturer Boeing has signed a three-year strategic agreement with family-owned Flying Colours Aviation (FCA) to paint the Royal Australian Air Force’s E-7A Wedgetail and P-8A Poseidon aircraft as part of deeper maintenance services now being performed onshore.
The Wedgetail is a twin-engine airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft based on the Boeing 737 civilian design, while the Poseidon is a long range maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft based on the Boeing 737-800.
Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) director of Commercial Derivative Aircraft Darryn Fletcher said: “The increased volume of work resulting from the commencement of deeper maintenance on the RAAF’s fleet of 12 P-8A aircraft this year, along with our ongoing commitments on E-7A, was the trigger for a formalised, ongoing strategic agreement between Boeing and FCA.”
It is anticipated that Townsville, Queensland based FCA will paint between nine to 12 aircraft over the course of the initial three-year agreement with options to extend the contract into the future.
“FCA is providing a critical service in support of Defence’s commercial derivative aircraft – and is one of the only suppliers in Australia who can physically accommodate a P-8A.
“They also meet our requirements in terms of environmentally friendly and sustainable business practices through the use of alternatives to harmful chemicals and processes that reduce material and waste volumes.”
FCA have painted Boeing 737s for airlines QANTAS and Virgin for almost 22 years, and have the proven capability, facility and accreditation to paint Defence’s 737 derivatives.
Repainting is the final step of the P-8A and E-7A’s deeper maintenance services performed by BDA around every 72 months.
It involves stripping the aircraft back to bare metal; inspecting and repairing for corrosion, defects and dents, and painting and applying decals.
The aircraft are transferred from BDA’s deeper maintenance facilities at RAAF Base Edinburgh and Amberley to FCA at Townsville airport.
Project Manager at Flying Colours Aviation Lloyd Armstrong said: “Due to their unique flying conditions, Defence aircraft require painting more often – with a five-to-seven-year cycle, as opposed to 10-12 years for commercial aircraft.
“As a low-flying maritime platform which is regularly exposed to salt spray, the P-8A is more susceptible to corrosion and the E-7A is based in Newcastle, near the ocean, so it also has significant exposure to a corrosive environment.”
To date, FCA has painted four E-7A Wedgetails and completed its first P-8A earlier this year, with the second P-8A scheduled this month.
Fletcher said: “It cannot be understated how important small local businesses are to BDA and to our defence customer in ensuring sovereign capability.
“We are proud to partner with FCA to grow their defence industry credentials and look forward to this being a successful long-term partnership.”
Picture: Boeing Defence Australia