Paint flies on aircraft

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Tamahere businessman Phil Hanrahan has celebrated a colourful milestone – his new aircraft painting company putting new livery on 16 planes in just the 20 weeks it’s been in business.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce with APS ceo Phil Hanrahan

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce was on the scene last week to mark the achievement because the company, Aviation Painting Services (APS), is a $2.5 million joint venture project between Hanrahan’s IGS Group and the NZ Trade and Enterprise-funded, Waikato-based Aviation Industry Cluster.

APS’s largest job to date is painting aviation pioneer Ossie James’ iconic DC-3 aircraft in its original James Aviation Ltd livery. The DC-3/C47 B Aircraft ZK-AZL has spent the last 38 years in the Ag Heritage complex at Mystery Creek Events Centre but it will be all spick and span again for next month’s National Agricultural Fieldays.

Seven of the 16 aircraft APS painted in five months at its Ingram Rd, Rukuhia facility were helicopters with other, bigger paint jobs for Eagle Air as well as 50 smaller jobs painting aircraft components, much of that work for two neighbours, Hamilton Aero Maintenance and Aeromotive.

The painting facility employs around 20 staff but up to 35 at peak times. It is the only purpose-built Civil Aviation Authority-compliant painting facility in the country that can be accessed by general aviation and independent airline operators from within New Zealand and the Pacific.

“Our facility is the only one in the country that is purpose-built and our primary asset is the oven inside which we strip, paint and dry the aircraft,” Hanrahan said in a media release.

The oven is 7200 square metres in volume and heats to 60degC in 15 minutes. Coupled with the latest spray–painting technologies that means staff are able to paint an aircraft 65% faster than any current facility operating in Australasia.

“The oven speeds up throughput tremendously because it dries an aircraft in 30 minutes, allowing us to apply the next coat within the hour. Aircraft painted in typical hanger conditions often take several days to dry between coats, depending on temperature and humidity. We can apply 11 coats of paint in five days, which is impossible at any other painting facility in New Zealand,” Hanrahan said.

The demand for APS’s services has surprised its joint venture owners, who are now planning a multi-million dollar expansion by 2014 to take narrow body jets, reported the Waikato Times earlier this month.

The expansion could cost up to $10 million and would probably involve additional investors, Hanrahan told the Waikato Times. Land next door has been earmarked for expansion.

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