Skytrans co-owner and North Queensland Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston in front of one of his company's aircraft at Cairns Airport. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Skytrans co-owner and North Queensland Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston in front of one of his company's aircraft at Cairns Airport. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Shift in airline creates on-ground turbulence

FIFTEEN staff from Skytrans' Cairns office have been made redundant as part of a cost-cutting move by the airline to outsource maintenance.

Cairns company Hawker Pacific is set to take on the scheduled maintenance work for the airline, with Skytrans management informing staff from the division in a meeting last week.

Despite initial reports the entire engineering department would go, the airline, which is co-owned by former rugby league star Johnathan Thurston, moved to confirm late yesterday they would retain 18 staff in the department, including planning managers, senior engineers, maintenance watch engineers and apprentices.

A company spokeswoman described the redundancies as a "difficult decision".

But chief executive Stuart Dechan said the move would not affect airline operations.

"This was based on a business decision in regards to our operating model and finding out how we can better deliver our services," he said.

"It doesn't affect Skytrans at all. It's based on our vision for the future and will assist us when we bring additional aircrafts into the company."

Mr Dechan said Hawker Pacific was also set to recruit for several positions due to their increased workload.

"I do believe there will certainly be enough positions in the industry to cover what number (Skytrans loses)," he said.

Hawker Pacific listed a job advertisement for an aircraft maintenance engineer last week.

A Skytrans maintenance engineer, made redundant and who did not wish to be named, said at least 12 staff would be impacted and it was an attempt by the company to "cut costs".

"As with anything like that, you do hear rumours, but I was surprised it happened so rapidly," he said. "About three months before, they were doing restructuring but said no jobs would be lost. There is a lot of people that are worried and pissed off."

Skytrans went through a turbulent period in January 2015 when it went into voluntary administration the day after marking its 25th anniversary.

It returned to the skies on March 31 that year under the ownership of Collings Holdings Airlines, owned by Peter Collings and Thurston.