21 March 2001 Media Statement
The Minister of Defence Mark Burton says there is nothing at this time to indicate any specific safety issue with the RNZAF Skyhawk fleet, or any connection between three recent incidents.
"Our immediate concern tonight is that RNZAF pilot flight Lieutenant Phillip Barnes has been successfully rescued from the sea off the coast of Western Australia.
"Why the pilot had to eject from his aircraft will be fully investigated. But at this very early stage there is nothing to suggest any connection between the three recent incidents involving Skyhawks.
"The government will await the outcome of the separate inquiries into these incidents. Meanwhile, decisions on the operation of the Skyhawk fleet are quite properly the responsibility of the Chief of Air Staff," Mark Burton said.
"Max Bradford should stop trying to score cheap political points and allow time for thorough investigations to be conducted.
"His comment that the three recent incidents are somehow "related to low morale in the airforce" is a quite outrageous statement, and a slur against the professionalism of every Airforce pilot," Mark Burton said.