The 10 runways at Whanganui Airport will be "absolute gold" when a flight school moves there from Feilding, Phillip Bedford says.
He is the CEO of the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy (NZICPA), formerly Flight Training Manawatu. It moves from Feilding Aerodrome to Whanganui Airport next year. Mr Bedford was speaking at the presentation of Whanganui District Council Holdings' annual report on Thursday night.
Holdings looks after the council's commercial assets. They are worth $8.2 million, and the airport is one of them. Altogether those assets earned the council $1.6 million this year, and $22 million over the last five years.
The airport is not a big earner, Holdings chairman Matthew Doyle said. It's jointly owned by the council and government and has been losing $60,000 to $80,000 a year.
Adding the flight school to the operation should help cashflow and use of the airport.
Holdings bought the flight school in September last year, and estimates it will add $4.5 million a year to the district's economy.
Its CEO Phillip Bedford has an air force background and is shifting to Whanganui with his family next year. He was rapt about the facilities Whanganui will have for students.
At Feilding the students' living arrangements were scattered, and they arrive at the aerodrome in their own transport. In Whanganui they will be accommodated together in a set of flats originally built for Whanganui polytechnic students. Now called Dublin Apartments, they have been bought by a Wellington investor.
Students living there will be able to walk to central Whanganui, and transport to the airport will be provided for them.
The school currently has 40 students, 17 of them from New Zealand. The others are from India, Oman, Singapore and Papua New Guinea. The school wants to expand and will be looking for more students in Asia and Africa, Mr Bedford said.
It has 18 instructors and other staff, and undertakes commercial contracts, such as surveying and small passenger charters, as well as training students.
Mr Bedford gave the example of Thursday October 13 as a day of typical operation. On that day 29 flights were made, four of them cross country. There were five hours of lectures and revenue was $11,500.
"The aim is 100 hours' flying on a good day."
It's a sound business, Mr Bedford said, gets top ranking in audits and survived the 2008 global financial crisis - which grounded other flight schools.