Des Ashton

Des Ashton

Qualifications & Awards

  • Bachelor of Engineering
  • Chartered Engineer
  • Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society
  • Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM)

About Des Ashton

Des Ashton was born in Australia and spent his early years resident in Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa where his father managed airfields and seaplane bases. He was educated at Westport North, Correspondence School, Auckland Grammar, Lindisfarne College, Canterbury University, and RAF Cranwell, UK.

He was trained as an engineering officer and pilot in the RNZAF. During his 24 years in the RNZAF, Des spent four years in Washington DC, two years with the Singapore Air Force and one year in UK with the RAF as well as postings throughout NZ and numerous short tours of duty overseas. His appointments included engineering, technical and operational roles most involving leading large groups of people in aircraft operation or support.

After the RNZAF, he spent six years as General Manager at Safe Air Limited and 18 months as Vice President of Airframe Engineering for Ansett Australia and Air New Zealand responsible for 80 jet aeroplanes, diverse international work and 1600 staff across NZ and Australia.

From 2002, he owned a consultancy specialising in aviation, technology and defence. His mostly international customers included L-3 Communications, Kellstrom, Bell Agusta, Kaman Aerospace, Boeing Australia, Aquaflow Technologies (biofuel), Damen-Schelde Shipbuilding, Qantas, Air Niugini, Alsalam Saudi Arabia, NZTE, NMIT, TAIC, Airflite Australia and others. He was a board director of Marlborough Lines (electricity), Port Marlborough, Cuddon Engineering, Flightcell International and other companies.

He was CEO of Port Marlborough from Jan 2006 to Jan 2008 while also maintaining some directorships and consultancy work.

Des was appointed to the position of Deputy Secretary of Defence (Acquisition) with the Ministry of Defence on 1 October 2008. In this role, he and his small team were responsible for the acquisition of all major capital capabilities for New Zealand Defence including sea, land and air platforms.

Des retired from the Ministry in mid-2016 to return to consulting and company directorships.

His work experience includes leading and participating in significant commercial, government to government, industrial and dispute resolution negotiations and mediations often in very complex situations.

His honorary appointments have included Chairman of the Defence Industry Committee of New Zealand, Vice Chairman of the Aircraft Industry Association Engineering Division, various roles with the Royal Aeronautical Society and a trusteeship with NZ Aeronautical Trusts. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the United States Government in 1992.

His interests include playing squash, wine, jogging to compensate for the latter and native gardens.

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