Flying school plans to open at airport

Alexandra Airport's good weather and lack of air traffic make it the ideal location for a flying school and such a venture is likely to get off the ground soon.

Mainland Aviation College, based in Dunedin, planned to expand its operation to Alexandra, college manager John Penno said.

The Alexandra flying school would complement the company's Dunedin operation and it would be marketed overseas to target international students as well as New Zealanders.

An open day will be held at the Alexandra Airport next Sunday, with introductory flights and a display of the aircraft which will be used in training.

"People might say it's a strange time to be starting up the operation, when things are quiet, but there's a real demand for pilots worldwide," Mr Penno said.

"If you get the training under way now, by the time the economy picks up the students will have completed their training and be ready to go."

There was no firm date for the Alexandra school to start but he was confident it would be under way soon.

It would cater for about 20 students and they would alternate their training between Alexandra and Dunedin, learning full time for 18 months to two years.

"Dunedin airport's getting busier all the time but in Alexandra, where there's less air traffic, it's easier for the students to concentrate on their flying," Mr Penno said.

"The weather is usually favourable, too, with mostly clear, calm days in Alexandra, so we anticipate less weather disruption."

It would also give the students more experience as they would encounter different conditions flying out of two airports.

About half of the current group of student pilots in Dunedin were from India, he said.

The Central Otago District Council operated Alexandra Airport and a member of the council's airport working committee, Central Otago deputy mayor Tony Lepper, said Mainland's plans were very exciting.

"We think this is an ideal use for the airport and there's good conditions here for such a school," Mr Lepper said.

"It's obviously good for the town and I believe when this school goes ahead it will attract other businesses here too."

Mr Penno said the plans had taken a while to come to fruition but the district council had been very helpful.

Mainland Aviation College is a division of Mainland Air.


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