Kempsey Airport has been given a new lease on life that will make it something of an aviation draw card for aspiring pilots from South East Asia.
Today a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Kempsey Shire Council and the Australian International Aviation College paving the way for a new $7 million flight training school to be built in association with China’s Hainan Airlines.
The college has been operating from a temporary premises at the airport for the past two years, and today’s MOU gives the green light to permanently develop the site alongside the recently completed $2.5 million Aviation Business Park.
Kempsey Shire Council mayor Liz Campbell is excited about the potential economic and cultural benefits presented by having around 200 international students and 50 staff living and working in the Macleay Valley.
“The fact that the students will reside in the area for 16 months (while completing their training) gives them an opportunity to become part of our community,” Cr Campbell said.
“This is something council has been working on for well over two years, and to be able to finally sign-off on the MOU and formally say welcome to Kempsey is a wonderful thing.
“This initiative gives value to an airport that hasn’t been able to be utilised for years, but can now be used as a training school for one of China’s largest international airlines.”
Australian International Aviation College chief flying instructor and assistant general manager Kevin McMurtie said that it’s symbolic for the college to relocate from Port Macquarie Airport to the former grounds of the Kempsey Pilot Training school that was established in the early 1990s.
“I learnt to fly at Aldavilla which is how I came to be associated with the college,” Mr McMurtie reflected.
Mr McMurtie said that operating the college from Kempsey Airport presented a lot of perks, but the major benefit was safety.
“Port Macquarie Airport is a very busy regional airport with a lot of scheduled passenger and air ambulance services, private aircraft traffic and of course students flying,” he said.
“Kempsey provides us with an airport where we’ve got near exclusive use which reduces risk.”
The college conducts its business in a manner that Mr McMurtie referred to as ‘flying neighbourly’. Meaning it will operate within restricted hours, using flight paths with the least encroachment over urban areas to avoid creating noise pollution.
“We’re very mindful that the airport hasn’t been used for some time and now there will be increased activity,” Mr McMurtie said.
“I encourage anyone from the community to contact me personally if they have any concerns about the operation... we want to work with locals, we don’t to become a nuisance.”
Council believes the college will generate around $6.8 million in wages from the 50 teaching jobs created, leading to an additional 120 new jobs for the wider community. Additionally, it’s estimated that each student will spend around $45,000 annually during their time in the area.