Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Key should be seething over Air Force breakdown

"It is a little bit sub-optimal," John Key said after being grounded in Townsville. Photo/ Greg Bowker
"It is a little bit sub-optimal," John Key said after being grounded in Townsville. Photo/ Greg Bowker

There are times when Prime Minister John Key is just too relaxed for words and today was one of those times.

"We're a little disappointed," he said when the breakdown of an Air Force Boeing in Australia forced the cancellation of the Mumbai leg of his trip to India.

"It is a little bit sub-optimal."

This sort of laconic understatement might work in ads about Southern men to sell Speights or utes.

But not today. Key should be seething. The break down was unforgivable.

It's embarrassing for New Zealand's reputation as a can-do country.
Can't even arrive.

It is not just one of those things that should be accepted an unavoidable.

Every breakdown can be avoidable just as every crash is avoidable.

The Air Force has failed at the absolute basics, to keep its planes in reasonable working order.

The two Boeings were bought in 2003, which is not old. [* see footnote]. They are nowhere near the end of their lifespan.

If they were transporting soldiers off to fight or to keep peace, that would not be so bad.

War and peace is not as time sensitive as a carefully organised prime ministerial visit.

The amount of effort it takes for a small country to actually secure an appointment with the Government of India, and hold them to it, is large.

Once that is secured, an immense amount of thought, planning and effort goes into organizing around it, including that of the business delegation.

Business has been denied a chance to promote both their own and New Zealand's national interests in Mumbai.

They can go back another time and do that privately.

Undoing the reputational damage will be more difficult.

At least the political leg of the trip, to New Delhi is going ahead, assuming the Air Force can be trusted to do keep its second Boeing in working order.

* I am reliably informed that both Boeings were 10 years old when they were bought by the Government in 2003 from the Dutch airline Transavia. But I'm also told by an airline pilot that they can fly for decades if well maintained.
The RNZAF Hercules which are due for replacement soon are pushing 50 years.

- NZ Herald

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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