COMMERCIAL flights could be running between Bendigo and Melbourne by April.
Two pilots have been employed by newly registered company Gold Air Pty Ltd as negotiations over airport access are under way with the City of Greater Bendigo and Essendon Airport owner Lindsay Fox.
Gold Air managing director Marcel Nolet said it had taken almost four years and about
$1 million to reach this stage and said the service would have huge economic benefits.
“We want to make sure this is going to be a long term operation, not a fly-by-night operation,” he said.
“We’re looking for further funding of $1 million at this stage as well... we’re looking for business people in Bendigo who will take a share of the airline.
“We hope to start employing people in March, looking for senior managers, airport staff and call centre staff.
“It will absolutely build Bendigo into a major, major city...we believe Bendigo will be a central Victorian hub, that’s our long term intention.”
Twice daily return flights and two weekend return flights are planned.
Principal consultant Neil Hansford said the airport terminal needed minor upgrades and that was separate to long-term plans for runway extensions.
“We’ve basically got to take over the terminal and convert it for scheduled services,” he said.
“Everything is in place, it’s ready, and the council needs to spend money converting the terminal back to a terminal.
“That’s got to be approved by councillors.”
The service would be aimed at business people flying to and from Melbourne, which could expand to Canberra, Adelaide and Mildura, then Sydney, Brisbane, Coolangatta and Hobart if the runway was extended.
Bendigo Business Council executive officer Patrick Falconer noted the difficulty of people travelling to Bendigo to conduct business.
“There will be a lot of sceptics because these services have been in Bendigo before,” he said.
“But that was when Bendigo was smaller with lot fewer businesses.
“I think given the size of Bendigo, the city does need an airlink and I think this is the start of the growth in air services in Bendigo.”
The company will start advertising in March with flights ranging from $130 to $180.
City of Greater Bendigo chief executive Craig Niemann said the council would be taking a cautious approach to the plans.
“As always, if any ratepayer money is to be expended we will ensure that it is done so in a responsible manner on projects that benefit our community,” he said.
“Council is yet to make any decisions on the type of assistance that might be needed.”
Mr Hansford said the size of the planes to be used meant security screening and baggage carousels weren’t needed.