TRAINEE pilots could be on the ground at Tamworth airport by the end of the year, after Virgin's $30-million flight school was given the tick of approval by the nation's foreign investment watchdog.
The airline's numerous overseas investors meant the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) had to sign off on the facility, which will be able to train up to 500 pilots at any given time.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said with FIRB handing down its decision on Thursday, council could now finalise its negotiations with the airline.
"We're not expecting that will take a long time," Cr Murray said.
"It's only really the final details now, what the ramp up numbers look like."
Cr Murray said optimistically, there could be pilots at the facility by Christmas.
"I think our community will be pleased to see this facility running at a much higher level that it's ever run before," he said.
"We're already looking at hitting capacity with the residential component of the facility and may well have to consider building more residential units. It's a really good position for us."
It's understood the majority of trainees will be foreign pilots.
Council has been given no indication of what the ratio of local to overseas pilots will be, however Cr Murray said ensuring there was a pathway for the region's aspiring pilots had been an important part of the negotiations.
"[We want] to ensure there are no barriers for any trainees," he said.
"In a perfect world we might see 200 local trainees and very few foreign ones - I don't believe that will be the case - but, certainly it will be important to council to have a smooth pathway to get locals in to pilot training."
New England MP Barnaby Joyce, said the flight training school approval capped off a remarkable few days for the region's future development.
"What an incredible week for Tamworth," Mr Joyce.
"To work with council and the state to deliver the Northern Inland Centre of Sporting Excellence, Dungowan Dam and now one of the largest flight training schools in the southern hemisphere, is a great privilege."