New Zealand's defence ministry has put eight of its stored Douglas A/TA-4K Skyhawk ground-attack and training aircraft up for sale, with bids sought by 16 May.

Part of a 17-strong fleet that was mothballed by the nation's Labour government after a 2001 decision, the package includes five single-seat A-4Ks and three two-seat TA-4Ks, plus up to 20 spare Pratt & Whitney J52 engines, ground support equipment and tooling.

Auckland, which has failed to sell its fleet despite conducting a worldwide marketing programme over the past decade, says the eight aircraft are available on an "as-is, where-is basis, without any warranty as to fitness for purpose or airworthiness". An earlier proposal to sell the aircraft to a potential US buyer for $155 million fell through without any money changing hands.

The New Zealand government abandoned plans to sell the Skyhawks as a going concern in December, and in early April announced that eight of them would be given to aviation museums around New Zealand and another to an air base in Australia.

More than $34 million has been spent in maintaining the fleet since its retirement. The aircraft were first stored in a hangar at Blenheim from early 2002, but have more recently been moved outside and covered in protective plastic.

The defence ministry says it would prefer to sell all the aircraft and spares to one buyer, but that it might also divide the package and sell selected parts to different buyers, pending approval from the US State Department.

Flightglobal's MiliCAS database lists almost 180 Skyhawks as still being in military use, with operators including Argentina, Brazil, Israel and Singapore.

The New Zealand government is also still hoping to sell 17 Aermacchi MB-339 jet trainers that were taken out of commission at the same time as the Skyhawks, with an announcement expected soon.

Source: Flight International