Pre­pared for take­off

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN

Rapid growth in the use of Alexan­dra Air­port and re­cent up­grades are un­likely to trans­late into pas­sen­ger flights with­out help from the pri­vate sec­tor, air­port of­fi­cials say.

Cen­tral Otago Fly­ing Club com­mit­tee mem­ber Nigel For­rester said pas­sen­ger flights were tri­alled in the past and it would make sense.

How­ever, it was un­likely.

‘‘I know pas­sen­gers would like it,’’ For­rester said.

‘‘Air New Zealand have flatly said, ‘not in our life­time’.

‘‘You never know, we might

get some­one do­mes­ti­cally that wants to do some­thing.’’

New Zealand Avi­a­tion News writer Peter Owen be­lieves it’s per­fect for com­mer­cial flights.

‘‘It is close to a well-ser­viced town and it has clear skies, low lev­els of air traf­fic and 80 hectares of land as­so­ci­ated. It is there­fore well placed for de­vel­op­ment as a sec­ond-tier air­port,’’ he wrote.

Dunedin’s Main­land Air tri­alled pas­sen­ger flights from Dunedin to Alexan­dra in 2007-08 but ‘‘lost a lot of money’’.

‘‘If it was vi­able, we would do it. Sim­ple as that,’’ Main­land Air chief ex­ec­u­tive Phil Kean said.

‘‘We tried it and it didn’t suc­ceed.‘‘

But if pri­vate back­ers came to the party, Kean said he would con­sider it again.

An Air New Zealand spokes­woman said the air­line had no in­ten­tion of com­menc­ing op­er­a­tions from Alexan­dra.

Cen­tral Otago District Coun­cil prop­erty and fa­cil­i­ties man­ager Mike Kerr said the coun­cil was ‘‘keen for all op­por­tu­ni­ties to be ex­plored’’ and all pri­vate in­ter­ests to be con­sid­ered.

The coun­cil, which owns the air­port land, re­cently in­vested $429,000 into an up­grade.

That money had paid for re­seal­ing the apron, and would be used to con­struct 25 pri­vate hanger lots and about 700m of taxi­way. Work would be com­pleted in the next six months.

Cen­tral Otago Fly­ing Club pres­i­dent Gary Wil­son said it was great an in­vest­ment had been made, as Alexan­dra was fast be­com­ing a base for gen­eral avi­a­tion.

The de­vel­op­ment of 25 new pri­vate han­gar lots would in­crease its pop­u­lar­ity, he said.

Club com­mit­tee mem­ber Nigel For­rester said a plan was in place for the con­tin­ued pros­per­ity of the club and air­port.

The new hang­ers, rest stop fa­cil­i­ties and air­craft main­te­nance were all part of a 20-year plan for growth be­tween the club and coun­cil, he said.

‘‘That will en­cour­age more [pi­lots] to come in and spend in Alexan­dra and Clyde ... now that they know they can ac­tu­ally get into town, go for a meal in town, stay the night.

‘‘Alexan­dra is re­ally be­com­ing the des­ti­na­tion.’’

For­rester owns the NZLX Mo­tels at the air­port.

Coun­cil prop­erty and fa­cil­i­ties man­ager Mike Kerr said a ‘‘pos­i­tive’’ re­la­tion­ship with hanger own­ers and the Fly­ing Club meant Alexan­dra Air­port was ben­e­fit­ing.

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