There are a few ways to judge the health and prosperity of a regional city but I really think an important one is by its airport.
A vibrant main street, strong commercial sector, booming tourism and diverse economic drivers are all important and will give insight into whether a city is moving forwards or backwards.
If a city has an airport with flights to multiple destinations, growing passenger numbers and other commercial developments, that is a very positive sign.
I’m pleased to say Dubbo fits that bill.
I have been quite vocal about the success Dubbo Regional Council is having at Dubbo City Regional Airport. We have flights to all capital and major cities on the Eastern seaboard as well as to Broken Hill and the possible addition of at least three new Western NSW destinations in coming months.
The interest in Dubbo from airlines is fantastic and airport management work closely with current and potential partners to ensure when opportunities arise we can hit the ground running.
However it isn’t just the passenger side of the airport that is booming. Everywhere you look at the airport there is development.
Just recently we had the official opening of $17.5 million of works between the State and Federal Governments and Dubbo Regional Council.
This included the runway strengthening and lighting upgrade, as well as the expansion of the General Aviation area by a further 11 lots.
The other component of the works was the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s Aeromedical facility, which consists of four large hangars that RFDS planes can utilise for patient transfer, unaffected by weather conditions.
Previous patients were required to be transferred while largely exposed to the elements, whether it was blistering summer sun or driving rain, so this is a great result. In addition, planes can also be stored out of the weather when not in use.
At the same time, a large-scale tourist and education centre is being constructed at the RFDS base that will draw thousands of tourists every year and train pilots and staff. From July the RFDS will have a flight simulator for ongoing flight training purposes.
It isn’t the only emergency services development at the airport. The Rural Fire Service’s Centre for Excellence that is in construction will provide specialised training for firefighters from all over the state.
Dubbo airport was also chosen to be the home over the summer for the large air tanker RJ Hunter used by the RFS for aerial firefighting, another big win.
The Volunteer Rescue Squad and State Emergency Service will also have their new joint-use premises at the airport.
There is plenty of other work going on, including the separation of the hire car park from general parking. This will deliver 118 car spaces, freeing up more parks in the general parking area.
I haven’t even mentioned the Qantas Pilot Academy, which Dubbo is a contender for. We are still waiting to hear back from Qantas about their decision on a second site to complement the Toowoomba academy that was announced last year.
I am very confident in the package Dubbo put together and hopeful that Qantas will choose our city as the location.
But regardless of our success there, you can be sure that Council will continue to look for ways to keep Dubbo’s airport thriving.