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'Embarrassing' breakdown of Air Force jet carrying John Key shows it's time to look at new planes - Labour

Labour says the embarrassing breakdown of a Royal New Zealand Air Force jet carrying the Prime Minister and a business delegation to India shows it's time for the Government to consider upgrading the Boeing 757 aircraft.

A technical fault with one of the Airforce 757s forced John Key and a business delegation to stop in Townsville en route to India. Source: 1 NEWS

John Key and the delegation are due to take off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, this evening on a second Air Force plane which had to pick them up from Townsville in Australia.

The glitch forced the cancellation of the first leg of their trade visit to India and questions are being asked about how reliable the 23-year-old troop carriers really are.

"It really is time for the Government to look at upgrading the aircraft," David Shearer, Labour's Defence spokesperson told 1 NEWS.

"I do think what we need is something with a longer haul capacity so that they can fly from here to Singapore without having to at least stop in Australia once or twice to get there," he said. 

New Zealand First Defence spokesperson Ron Mark says the breakdown of the 757 is "a bit of a diplomatic disaster and a credibility disaster".  

The 737 used by the Australian prime minister would be the most likely candidate as replacement for the two 757s, although it's not cheap at $70 million a pop. 

But New Zealand First say a new plane is a waste of money.  

They've historically been very reliable - Prime Minister John Key

"The bottom line is if the prime wants an Air Force One of his own to jet around the world, we would say that's an extravagance that the New Zealand taxpayer and particularly the Defence Force can't afford," Mr Mark said.  

The idea of a special plane just for the Prime Minister isn't something Mr Key has pushed for.

He says he has used the Air Force 757 fairly extensively, "and they've historically been very reliable".

The Defence Force is planning to replace the two 757s, but not until around 2025, and the Prime Minister has no plans to bring it forward. 

"I don't think it's terribly likely. At some point, yes, they will be replaced, but in the natural course of things," Mr Key said.

Right now, the Prime Minister will be just trying to make the most of a trip cut short.