COUNCIL and Virgin Australia are still negotiating a final agreement for the proposed pilot training academy to be established in Tamworth with hopes a deal can be brokered by Christmas.
A non-disclosure agreement with council and the airline has kept most details of the deal shrouded in secrecy.
Tamworth Regional Council announced last week it had selected Virgin to run a pilot training facility in the city as the BAE defence contracts expires.
Mayor Col Murray said the “major parts of the negotiations” had been agreed on, there was still “a lot of smaller parts” to nut out.
“I’m hopeful of having it signed off by Christmas,” Cr Murray said.
“I’m confident we will see Virgin here in 2019 and ramp-up around mid-year.”
The mayor said “in an ideal world” council wouldn’t have put anything out until the deal was fully sealed, but the matter was up for discussion at an ordinary meeting.
“Virgin have indicated that when we are, not if, we reach a final agreement, they quite keen to have a major announcement,” he said.
Cr Murray hoped the community would have faith in council’s reputation and track record.
“We don’t have discussions about things that are unlikely to happen,” he said.
Council is currently in the process of having the BAE flight school assets transferred back to TRC and the mayor agreed the timeline for BAE winding down should make for a seamless transition.
“My father said ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’,” Cr Murray said.
“Council and the staff, the General Manager in particular has done an enormous amount of work on this.
“John Sommerlad has been involved in this process for many months.”
When Virgin was announced as the preferred airline, its group executive Rob Sharp said it looked forward to working with council to finalise the agreement over coming months.