NZAero, formerly NZSkydive, has introduced its 750XL-II SuperPac XSTOL aircraft, a next-generation, more powerful and fuel-efficient version of the 750XL, the world's first commercial XSTOL aircraft. The new Type Certificate was issued in August this year, 20 years after the TC for the 750XL, and the Certificate of Airworthiness for the first 750XL-II off the production line came in October.
The SuperPac aircraft cost over $6 million and took seven years to develop. It does not require a sealed runway and is capable of taking off in as little as 656ft and landing on a wide variety of rugged terrains, including hillsides.
The ability of the 750XL aircraft to land in remote locations on only semi-prepared airstrips and rapidly take off with up to nine passengers or 4,400 pounds of cargo has seen it sold into 28 countries, including Africa with the United Nations World Food Programme. The aircraft also plays a role in the Pacific Islands where it is used in lifesaving medivac transports, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, border patrol and maritime surveillance.
CEO Stephen Burrows says the design adaption of the aircraft to New Zealand's variable terrain and weather conditions has made it suitable for a wide range of applications to help mitigate the impact of climate change. He says their engineers have developed a series of modular accessories for the utility aircraft that allows it to be rapidly converted within minutes to disperse fire retardant during wildfires or release rainmaking silver iodide particles above drought-stricken areas.
According to latest climate change data, wildfires are growing in intensity and spreading in range across Earth's ecosystems, and changing weather patterns are also making droughts more frequent, severe and pervasive.
Burrows says: "We know that the effect of climate change is accelerating across the world, and it is now more devastating to human health, economies and the environment than ever before. Increasingly the fight against its impact is being fought by nations around the world from the skies. In the case of wildfires, historically the focus has been on using larger aircraft to deliver payloads of fire retardant across a wider area. The difficulty has been that by the time a forest fire is identified and an aircraft outfitted and relocated, the fire is already well established.
"With the growing frequency of these events, governments are looking to a new paradigm, and it is now possible to have smaller fleets of lower-cost SuperPacs strategically deployed in areas where forest fires are common. The smaller aircraft requires less training to fly and less time to refuel and take on more retardant. It can also climb to altitude significantly faster and requires a landing strip that is a fraction of the length of larger planes but is still capable of dispersing a 2,500l payload across 12,330sqm of forest in 10 seconds. Under this model, wildfires can be brought under control while they are still relatively small."
The aircraft is also designed to be used for other environmental applications including reducing the size of locust populations and pollution control. It can also be used to transport passengers and freight into otherwise inaccessible locations, as well as for aerial photography and geophysical surveying, allowing it to be used to detect minute variations in the earth's magnetic field or measure concentrations of greenhouse gases in the troposphere.
"The predecessors to the SuperPac have formed a critical part of New Zealand's agricultural sector for the past five decades, spreading fertiliser and pesticides. With climate change set to dramatically increase the intensity of locust swarms, this technology is also playing a role in protecting crops in other nations around the world," he continues.
"For countries that are heavily impacted by drought, natural disaster or are geographically isolated, such as Papua New Guinea or Indonesia, this utility aircraft can lift more than its own weight, bringing thousands of pounds of supplies to remote villages and leave with a cargo hold full of perishable produce, providing a critical economic lifeline"
NZAero's rebranding from NZSkydive aligns its identity with its multifaceted operations and global significance. The business focusses on the production of utility aircraft and parts, and the new name encapsulates the essence of the company's mission and capabilities, with its feet firmly on New Zealand soil.
"We believe that the change to NZAero will not only enhance our brand visibility but also communicate our core values and expertise more accurately to our global clientele," says Burrows. "Our commitment to excellence remains unwavering, and this transformation represents our dedication to the aviation industry."
The company has undergone many changes of ownership and identity since it was established at Hamilton airport by the US military in support of its Pacific campaign in WWII. Since then the facility has evolved from aircraft maintenance and modification to aircraft kit assembly to the present day aircraft design and manufacture. It has operated as:
James Aviation - formed 1949
Air Parts (NZ) - 1958
Aero Engine Services - formed 1954
New Zealand Aerospace Industries - formed 1972
Pacific Aerospace Corporation - formed 1982
Pacific Aerospace - formed 2006
NZSkydive - since 2021