The New Year is off to a flying start with the Australian International Aviation College (AIAC) unveiling long-term plans for a $18m training facility at Kempsey Airport, and more than 50 student pilots beginning to arrive from China.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Kempsey Shire Council and the AIAC last year, paving the way for the facility to be built in association with China’s Hainan Airlines.
Stage one of the facility, due to be completed during 2017, is valued at $3.1m and will see the arrival of new aircraft valued at $7m and a total student body of 150.
Chief flying instructor Kevin McMurtrie said 20 cadets arrived in Kempsey this week with a second cohort of 33 students due to arrive in mid-February.
An estimated 34 staff will also be appointed during stage one, including 25 flight instructors, an operations manager, theory and language teachers, aircraft maintenance engineers and administrative staff.
Mr McMurtrie said the college was extremely happy with the Kempsey campus operations during 2016, with graduating students now moving on to the next training phase of utilising flight simulators currently based at Port Macquarie Airport.
“Under our longer-term plans, these simulators will be relocated to Kempsey to be housed within the new and expanded facility,” Mr McMurtrie said.
Kempsey Shire mayor, Liz Campbell, described the college’s expansion plans as one of the Shire’s most significant economic development achievements in recent history. “We are delighted to welcome an international training facility of such high calibre to the Macleay Valley,” Cr Campbell said.
“Hainan Airlines’ parent company HNA was included on the itinerary of Council’s recent trade delegation visit to China and Council was extremely impressed by the company’s rapid global expansion as a Fortune 500 listed company in the aviation and tourism sectors in particular.”
The flying school is expected to have a broad benefit for the local economy with each student generating a spending of $43,900 per annum as well as 0.29 full-time equivalent jobs outside the AIAC operation, according to Council.
Additionally, every two students is expected to attract an international visitor who spends around $2000 in the local Macleay community, while each AIAC employee generates 3.65 flow-on jobs locally.
Stage two of the development, valued at $14.9m and with aircraft valued at $8m, is expected to be completed during 2018-19 and will see student numbers increase to 200 with an additional 28 professional staff appointed.
“AIAC believes our facility will provide both economic benefits for the local community as well as creating a new industry to the region and Australia in exporting high-level skills for China and the global aviation industry,” Mr McMurtrie said.
The flying school development comes after a year in which Macleay Valley official and producers worked to strengthen business and tourism ties to China.
A delegation of Kempsey Shire Council and industry representatives participated in an eight day trade visit to China’s Fujian and Hainan provinces in November 2016, aimed at further securing local export and investment opportunities abroad.