Growing Our Region

Pilot Academy set for growth

​Last month the Whanganui District Council Holdings Limited (WDCHL), was one of the major recipients of Provincial Growth Funding, receiving $400,000 towards a business case to investigate an Advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport. The hub will operationally become part of the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy, giving the Academy the potential to become an internationally significant pilot training organisation. 
“It is incredibly exciting,” says NZICPA chief executive Phillip Bedford.

“The business case will help us determine which airliner aircraft type training systems should be established to enable Whanganui to become a type rating centre.  At this time logic suggests these could be Airbus A320, Boeing 737 Max or ATR 72-600.”
That said the comprehensive business case “means we will know which flight simulators are the most appropriate.”

Phillip and his team went through a wholly collaborative process to put forward their funding application. Initially they took their idea to a facilitated session with the Whanganui District Council who thought it had huge potential. Next, the Whanganui District Council Holdings Group took the bid on as a Holdings project and the bid was developed with council staff.

A preferred supplier to manage the business case has been appointed and results are expected in June next year. From there, an output will be completing a bid for the capital funding from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Currently, the NZICPA has 83 students, doubling its roll in the past year, with the potential to train 200 pilots per year. Under the full advanced aviation hub model, the Academy will also be able train flight attendants and aeronautical engineers. 

That is a considerable number of students to be coming to and spending money in the Whanganui district.

“The business case will also look at the wider benefits to the district,” says Phillip.

“Students will be looking for accommodation, buying essentials and contributing to the wider community, which are all positive for Whanganui.

“We believe that while the advanced aviation hub will not itself produce loads of new jobs, the influx of students to the academy will become an enabler for new business in the Whanganui district.

“If we can get it right, there is no reason why we cannot have hundreds of students attending the academy in the long-term future.

In the meantime, we look forward to hearing the results of the business case and the potential developments it will bring.