ORANGE Airport could take off as a major growth area for the city if Orange City Council encourages more aviation businesses to relocate to the area, rather than driving them away with extra landing fees and higher lease costs.
That’s the view of Orange Aero Club vice-president John Pullen, who has welcomed the council’s decision put off a major increase to airport fees until next year’s budget, when he hopes airport users and the council can reach a compromise.
Previously, light aircraft weighing less than 2000kg were charged no landing fees, but a new schedule of charges proposed a $200 annual fee for private aircraft and $400 for business aircraft, or $5 per tonne each time they landed.
For aircraft weighing more than 2000kg the annual landing fees were set to rise by about 68 per cent from $272.95 to $400 for private aircraft and by about 79 per cent for business aircraft from $628.80 to $800.
Lease charges per square metre were set to increase from $3 per square metre to $4.
Councillors agreed to the increased fees earlier in the month but, led by councillor Russell Turner, decided to overturn the decision last week following complaints from airport users.
With major work to upgrade the airport already underway, disrupting operations, Mr Pullen said it was a bad time for the council to raise the fees.
He believed targeting small time aircraft owners “defied logic” as it discouraged people from landing at Orange and spending money in town.
“One of the attractions [of Orange] is that there were no fees for light aircraft that do little damage to airport infrastructure,” he said.
“No one had actual numbers of how much revenue would be raised and how much it would cost to raise it. Until we know these facts how can we go forward?”
Mr Pullen says several leaseholders at the airport want to purchase the land where their hangars are so they can seek finance for new buildings - a move he believes could attract more aviation businesses to Orange, away from crowded airports at Bankstown and Canberra.
“It only takes a few extra businesses for more full-time jobs,” he said.
“Even if it’s conditional ownership that satisfies all parties, it needs to be looked at.”
Mr Pullen said he knew of at least two businesses that abandoned plans to relocate to Orange Airport because they were unable to purchase land for their hangars.
He said the airport was a growth area for the city with the potential of providing extra employment in the aviation industry and bringing more people to town for tourism.
“The businesses would include all sorts of services for aviation-related activities like an engine reconditioning workshop, propellers or interior refurbishment of aircraft,” he said.
“People in general society don’t know what needs to go in to keep aircraft in the air and we can provide all that here in Orange.”