Tamworth Regional Council announces BAE Systems replacement

MOVING IN: Council director of business John Sommerlad, airport manager Julie Stewart and mayor Col Murray buoyed by BAE Systems replacement. Photo: Peter Hardin 311017PHE120
MOVING IN: Council director of business John Sommerlad, airport manager Julie Stewart and mayor Col Murray buoyed by BAE Systems replacement. Photo: Peter Hardin 311017PHE120

TAMWORTH is set to soar with a replacement for the departing defence force flight school at the airport named by council.

A commercial pilot school will move into the facility from February and Tamworth Regional Council is boasting the new flight school will be a much larger operation than BAE, meaning more jobs and bigger bucks for the local economy.

Melbourne-based flight academy CAE Oxford Aviation Academy will establish its first regional operation base in Tamworth.

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It was a deal more than two years in the making and council hoped it will quell some uncertainty and cynicism in the community after the loss of the defence contract in 2015.

CAE hopes to have 100 students at the Tamworth base by the end of 2018 and estimated there could be up to 40 direct jobs up for grabs.

Mayor Col Murray said finding a replacement for the defence flight school has been one of the top items on council’s agenda for the last two years.

“CAE are indicating the numbers will grow beyond what we experienced with BAE with their defence training,” Cr Murray said.

“The students will be here for longer periods; the numbers will increase and the numbers of jobs will increase too.”

Cr Murray said the addition of CAE to the airport would put Tamworth “up there with the very best” in terms of regional flight schools.

“We’re nowhere near capacity for airspace,” he said.

Mayor Col Murray

Mayor Col Murray

Council’s director of business, John Sommerlad, said the defence contract was worth about $2 billion to the NSW economy over the last 25 years and the new commercial flying school would deliver more jobs.

Mr Sommerlad said a recent report by Boeing predicted there would be a need for 533,000 more commercial airline pilots by 2034 and this week’s announcement was a “golden opportunity” to grow the local aviation sector.

The federal government provided close to $2 million for a new Instrument Landing System (ILS) earlier this year and Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce spruiked the importance of funding the “vital” piece of equipment.

Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce

Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce

“The issue is the ILS section of it, that’s what was vitally important, we take our lead from the Tamworth Regional Council,” Mr Joyce said.

“We say ‘what can we do to help?’, they say ‘we need an ILS, we need the funding for it’.

“We went out and found the funding for it.”