The runway at Whanganui Airport is about to become a whole lot busier.
The NZ International Pilot Academy has scored a contract to train international pilots for Indian Airline Indigo, and it's worth more than $50 million for Whanganui District Council and its commercial arm.
"They purchased the flight school in 2015," Chief Executive of the Academy, Phil Bedford said. "We operated from Feilding for close to 18 months after that while we were building this complex, and we've established what is essentially a $2.5million purpose-built pilot training complex."
Last year the airport received $400,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund to advance the aviation hub, helping to maximise benefits for the city.
"The Pilot Cadet Programme will cost each individual $200,000 - slightly less than that," Bedford said. "The initial agreement is to train 242 students, so 242 times $200,000 gives you just shy of $50 million."
As well as the direct income to the airport, there are significant indirect benefits for the Whanganui economy.
"Whanganui District Holdings bought Nazareth Rest Home buildings with the council's support because the flight school needs further accommodation," Mayor Hamish McDouall said. "They want a campus feel and Nazareth is purpose-built for accommodation so it was a real win-win."
"One shouldn't underestimate the importance of pastoral care around young students," he said. "It's not like your image maybe of my alma mater, Otago, where it's a big party place. These students are here because they're very focused and they are spending a lot of money in our community in order to get their wings."
With a limit of five students per aeroplane, Whanganui Airport will soon be buzzing with almost 40 small planes, making the most of the location.
"[It's] the whole mix of fantastic airport," Bedford said. "[There's] lots of runway space available, lots of open area around the airport for training areas and low commercial volumes makes it perfect for flight-training."
"We can fly down to Ohakea and use the instrument landing system there, so that's pretty close. And we can also operate into Palmerston North when we need to. They've got a navigation aid over there that's different to the one here, so we use that quite regularly."