23/05/2006 - 22:00

Busselton air plan prepares for take-off

23/05/2006 - 22:00

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The Busselton Shire Council has released plans to expand and market Busselton Airport as a gateway to the South West for tourists and fly-in-fly-out workers.

The Busselton Shire Council has released plans to expand and market Busselton Airport as a gateway to the South West for tourists and fly-in-fly-out workers.

The ‘Busselton Airport Assessment and Marketing Strategy’, recently presented to the South West Develop-ment Commission, outlines a proposal to extend and upgrade the airport’s infrastructure and attract eastern states jet air passenger traffic to the region.

The $5.5 million airport, located about 6.5 kilometres east of Busselton and operating since March 1997, is currently used for charter flights, Royal Flying Doctor services and training fights.

Busselton Shire president Kevin Douglas said the airport was underutilised and regular small passenger flights were non-existent.

“We had five years of regular passenger flights from Skippers Aviation, Skywest and other smaller operators, but the traffic is not so steady now,” he said.

The shire’s immediate priority is to raise the airport’s public profile, with help from the Busselton Tourist Centre, and developing its potential to secure higher order air services.

Possible initiatives include fly-drive and accommodation packages for passengers flying in from Perth, encouraging fly-in-fly-out mining operators to consider Busselton as a base, and establishing a triangulated service opportunity between Perth and Albany with Skywest.

Mr Douglas said the shire would also seek to secure closed charter flights from the eastern states, via Perth, and eventually would like carriers such as Virgin Blue and Jetstar to establish regular passenger services out of Busselton once the infrastructure was in place.

The first phase of the proposed expansion will include lengthening the runway from 1,800 metres to 2,100 metres, and widening it from 30 to 45 metres, and the installation of a refuelling station capable of supporting fly-in-fly-out operations.

A future crosswind runway of 1,200 metres in length is also planned, as is the development of up to 40 hectares of land at the site for industrial use.

South West Development Commission chairman Peter Monagle said the increasing number of people choosing to live in the region and holiday there meant a heavier use of the airport was inevitable.

“It’s important for planning to take place now to make sure it grows in a way that benefits the community and maximises opportunities for Busselton and all of the South West,” he said.

The shire will prepare a formal master plan next year while it engages with Swan Tafe, the main provider of licensed aircraft maintenance engineer training in WA, to establish more intensive maintenance and training programs at the airport in the short-term.

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