Australian Air Show: MRTT support location still under discussion

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The location in Australia of Qantas Defence Services' Airbus A330 multirole tanker transport (MRTT) conversion line is being linked to the heavy maintenance requirement of its airline parent.

QDS, the military maintenance division of Australia's national carrier, expects an "imminent decision" on which of its sites at Brisbane and Melbourne Avalon airports will house the conversion line that will prepare four of the five A330 MRTTs on order for the Royal Australian Air Force.

However, "internal discussions" are hampering the location decision, which will use existing Qantas Airways hangars and draw from its personnel and equipment, says Peter Hoff, MRTT programme manager for QDS. It is understood the decision rests on the heavy maintenance requirements for the airline's fleet of A330s, the first of which underwent a C check at Lufthansa Technik in Manila, the Philippines, late last month. "The [tanker line] is linked to restructuring in Qantas Engineering, with the repatriation of A330 heavy work being discussed," says Hoff.

The RAAF's second A330-200 will arrive green from Toulouse, France in May 2008, two months after the first MRTT converted by EADS Casa in Getafe, Spain. The remaining green aircraft will then arrive in six-month gaps. Hoff says the decision timeframe is "not yet critical" to meet the delivery deadlines.