When Hornet A21-43 ceremonially rolled out of Boeing Defence Australia’s facility at Williamtown on July 9, it marked the end of Classic Hornet deeper level maintenance work for the RAAF.
The planned withdrawal date for the RAAF’s Classic Hornet is December 2021 and the final deeper level maintenance activity was the 163rd carried out on the RAAF Hornet fleet since 2013. According to BDA director of Sustainment Operations, Amy List, the work has sustained 150 jobs in the Hunter region and contributed $200 million to the national economy over that time.
But the departure of A21-43 doesn’t mean the end of Classic Hornet maintenance at Williamtown, as the BDA workforce continues to provide line maintenance support for 81 Wing’s flying operations, and it is also preparing aircraft for disposal within Australia and overseas.
“The hangar is still full of aircraft, there’s still plenty of work going on associated with the disposals, we have a number of aircraft that we continue to prepare for the Royal Canadian Air Force and there are eight aircraft we’re preparing for heritage displays around the nation,” List explained.
“And then there are some other aircraft to get ready for commercial sale and the other disposal activities that the Commonwealth is arranging, so the team has plenty of work on the horizon.”
Between 18 and 25 Hornets will go to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and at least four have already left Williamtown.
“The work we are doing for Canada is to ensure the aircraft has sufficient life on it, so there’s a bit of scheduled maintenance and preventative maintenance work, to make sure each aircraft is operational when it arrives,” List said.
Other than the maintenance work, each aircraft is dismantled and packaged for transportation to Canada via RCAF C-17A aircraft and List says the BDA facility has “more than a years’ work,” to prepare aircraft for Canada alone.
The Commonwealth Government is also negotiating the sale of ‘up to 46’ Hornets to US air training company Air USA, with the final number depending upon how many aircraft Canada eventually takes and at least the first of these aircraft is understood to be on the floor of the BDA facility at Williamtown at the present time.
BDA is also preparing eight Hornets for Heritage display purposes around Australia, including one with will be delivered to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra before the end of the year.
“Right now, we’re not seeing any pressure on our workforce, because we have a good plan for disposals and the team can see a fair bit of work coming up, so they’re excited to keep delivering on Hornet,” List said. “We’re also growing Boeing more broadly as well and Wedgetail is growing and there are some other opportunities for the Hunter region for our workforce as well.”
In February, ADM reported that Malaysia will send the first two of up to eight of its F/A-18D Hornets to Williamtown for major overhaul by BDA. The deeper level maintenance activities were originally due to begin in April, and while the first aircraft have not yet arrived, regional work is understood to form a key plank in BDA’s future strategy, extending the company’s ‘Classic’ Hornet work for another two or three years.
“It would be premature of Boeing to comment, but we stand ready to support our regional customers,” a BDA spokesperson said.