The air is blue over plane landing fee: 'council's chasing away tourists'

UNHAPPY LANDING: Central West Helicopter School’s Joel Stewart is opposed to landing fees for light aircraft at Orange Airport. Photo: JUDE KEOGH.0709airport1

UNHAPPY LANDING: Central West Helicopter School’s Joel Stewart is opposed to landing fees for light aircraft at Orange Airport. Photo: JUDE KEOGH.0709airport1

ORANGE Airport users have railed against increases in fees at the facility, saying it will reduce the number of tourists coming to Orange and increase costs for budding pilots.

Landing fees for aircraft lighter than 2000 kilograms were due to be introduced late last year, but Orange City Council staff put a hold on their introduction after operators complained.

The $5 a tonne landing fee was introduced on July 1 as part of the council’s fees and charges, but Orange Aero Engineering owner Bruce Whiley said the consultation operators believed was promised never took place.

“We thought we would have an open forum,” he said.

“Commercial aircraft all pay fees, but recreational aviators never had to - the council’s chasing away tourists.”

Mr Whiley said Forbes, Parkes, Cowra, Temora and Narromine airports did not charge landing fees for light aircraft and recreational flyers would take their business there.

When asked whether businesses and pilots should pay for the facilities they used, Mr Whiley conceded $5 was not a large amount.

“But once they start to do it, it won’t stay at $5,” he said.

Thomas Aviation owner and chief pilot Troy Thomas said larger aircraft were responsible for wear and tear on the runways.

“My little plane is only 390 kilograms, which does no damage to the runway whatsoever,” he said.

Mr Thomas said he would have to pass on anywhere between $5 and $20 to his students depending on the structure of the lesson.

“It makes it hard for people to get into aviation with all these extra costs,” he said.

Central West Helicopter School senior flight instructor Joel Stewart said the helicopters did not use the runways, yet landing fees would still be charged - he said he would be happy to pay the charges if council contributed to hanger upkeep.

“You should be either charged fees and provided with a standard of facilities, or not charged fees and expected to kick the tin and help with the maintenance of the place,” he said.

Aerodrome committee chair and councillor Chris Gryllis said he did not support the fee increases, but also pointed out the fees had been on public exhibition with council’s draft budget earlier this year.

“To the best of my recollection, no one objected in writing to the council,” he said.

Cr Gryllis said all landing fees would be spent on the airport.

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