Ipswich engineering firm is flying high
IT'S certainly been a big week for Ipswich-based engineering company TAE, announcing massively successful contracts to maintain engines on the ground and in the air.
TAE - Tasman Aviation Enterprises - won the contract to maintain engines for the Joint Strike Fighter and the engines that power the Australian Army's Abrams main battle tank.
Operating from four sites in Australia including RAAF Base Amberley, TAE is Australia's leading gas turbine engine maintenance and engineering company.
"Amberley would be where we would plan on setting up to do the work," TAE general manager Andrew Sanderson said.
"We are very excited to have been selected to be responsible for the maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade of the F135 engine in the Asia Pacific region."
Among others, TAE already looks after the engines for the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet.
Adding the F135 would position TAE as the leader in this sector in the Asia-Pacific region, Mr Sanderson said.
"It's a big, long-term deal. We had to put in a submission about why we might be the best enterprise and the decision was made by the US Department of Defence," he said.
"It's a significant success for our business and we look forward to a lot of years servicing this engine once we're up and running.
"It's a joint program so there's going to be a couple of thousand aeroplanes built and operating around the world. We've been assigned the regional responsibility for Asia-Pacific for any of the engines being used in the aeroplane in Japan, Korea, not just Australia.
"The reason we were chosen is because of our capability that already exists here for the Hornet engines and Super Hornet engines; they could see we're a fast jet engine provider and the way we put together our submission and demonstrated what we could do is the reason they selected us for this work."
He said it was too early to speculate on the dollar value of the contract; the emphasis was on gearing up, although expansion at Amberley was on the cards.
"The first aeroplanes for Australia don't arrive until 2018. Where that goes next decade and after that, who knows; the volume would grow substantially so there's expansion plans that we'd have to put in place; there's training plans, employment plans, quite a lot of detail yet to be worked out."
TAE already employs people from in and around Ipswich and the new deal would certainly be a great opportunity for more.
"Absolutely," he said. "We're in the market right now for 10 people - trainees, engine technicians and engineers.
"We're growing our business here in this region and this would add to that in the long term."
The Joint Strike Fighter already has a long story with its share of ups and downs and delays but Mr Sanderson is confident it's all systems go now.
"The Air Force is looking to the aeroplane. They're already flying it in the States; they got their first two aeroplanes in Phoenix," he said.
"It's a big commitment from an Australian point of view - 72 jets on their way between now and early next decade."