AT LEAST 200 Chinese students are ready to reactivate Tamworth's pilot-training school when international borders reopen.
The city's airport has been a thorn in Tamworth Regional Council's (TRC) side since the start of the pandemic, and while the future is bright, it's "bloody hard to ride it out in the meantime," general manager Paul Bennett said.
"Seriously, that is the bleeding ulcer at the moment," he said.
"We are very focused on that space now that we have reactivated AELEC and events are back on, the airport is the one thing that's really causing us grief at the moment."
Major pilot-training school CAE shut down operations at the airport in June last year, when it lost 50 per cent of its business in international students.
Half of the instructors have been stood down and it will take at least three months from when borders open to go through the VISA process and bring students in, CAE Australia general manager Mike Drinkall said.
"We would take a license, or lease of part of the building as we were doing - all of our equipment is still there, but we can't operate," he said.
"There are already business people coming into the country from tennis players to fruit pickers.
"The next 12 months will be difficult for flying schools."
The Tamworth facility employed 40 staff and used local engineering services as well as refuellers at the airport, accommodation and catering staff.
Students would live in the community for 18 months before they returned to China.
The company's Melbourne facility would take the first cohort of international students before it reconsidered opening Tamworth, Mr Drinkall said.
"June would be an optimistic time frame from today to bring the first group of 20 to 30 in, every month after that we would bring another group to build our capacity," he said.
"It's easy to turn off the tap, but it's difficult to put it back on for the level of infrastructure that needs to be in place.
"We train Aussie students as well, and if we aren't doing that there won't be pilots for the future, so when aviation does come back and they are looking for pilots there won't be anybody there."
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