The sudden defection of Ansett's operations chief to Qantas could not have come at a worse time, Australia's aviation watchdog said today.
Trevor Jensen, the Ansett manager recently identified as the new executive general manager of operations, announced yesterday he was leaving to take up a role with Qantas.
Mr Jensen was named on Ansett Mark II's air operating certificate and was coordinating the massive amounts of paperwork to be completed before Ansett Mark II got Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) permission to fly.
Tesna Holdings, the company expected to take over Ansett, is preparing for a February 1 launch.
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson today said while the administrative work was on track, there was a lot of information still to be submitted.
Officers estimated only hours of grace if anything was to go wrong.
Eight CASA staff had moved into Ansett offices at the airport to ensure the transactions went as smoothly as possible with Tesna secretaries brought in to assist them.
But thousands of pages of paperwork were still to be completed before CASA officers could approve them.
Mr Gibson said CASA anticipated no problems with Mr Jensen's replacement, former chief pilot Mark Rindfleisch, but the paperwork to confirm his role and position with regards to the AOC had not been completed.
"The transfer of key personnel happens ... the problem here is the timing," Mr Gibson said.
"They are days away from their deadline."
Mr Gibson said CASA expected Ansett Mark II would meet the February 1 deadline if Mr Rindfleisch was able to "step in, pick up the balls and keep running".
"They've taken a big hit. How quickly they can get back to speed will very much depend on the information Trevor Jensen had in his head.
"It will depend how much was it a team effort or how much was he the pivotal person in coordinating the documentation?" Mr Gibson said.
There were substantial chunks missing before CASA could give the go-ahead to the airline, he said.
The February 1 deadline was one imposed by Tesna and Ansett administrators and was not a concern to CASA, he said.