In 2001, Prime Minister Helen Clark mothballed New Zealand's entire air combat division, consisting of a number of A4 Skyhawks and Aermacchi trainers. This began a 12 year sale process. It was supposed to be simple. An American company, specialising in pilot training was to take the entire fleet off our hands, as long as the sale was approved by the US State Department. Deadlines came, deadlines went, and by the time approval was given (over a decade later), there were no longer any buyers interested. So the Skyhawks continued to sit in their protective skrinkwrapping, looking more like unpainted models than fighter jets.

Now, after 12 years, a deal that will see the Skyhawks airborn again is in the final stages of negotiation. Another American businesman is set to purchase the entire fleet (Minus the only one that ever fired a shot in anger. We put that in a museum. There are a couple of others in museums too.) with the intention of using them as training aircraft. The airframes are in fantastic condition, but they should be, given the NZ$37.5 million spent to maintain them over the last decade or so years. They also benefited from an avionics upgrade before they were retired, giving them equipment usually found in F-16s. I'm very pleased that they will fly again and that they will stop being a drain on New Zealand's public purse, but mostly that they will retain their RNZAF livery.

And yes, I am well aware that a cute little kiwi is the least threatening military symbol ever. Doesn't stop me being proud of it.