FEES proposed for Bendigo Airport could ground flying instructors and dissuade pilots from landing, airport users have warned.
Graeme Serjeant, of Sarge's Light Sport Aviation, expected he would have to pay $6000 more a year to keep his three planes in the air if the city's proposed fee structure was adopted.
Most of that would be the $5000 annual flight training fee. The 76-year-old also believed he'd incur landing fees on the two planes he uses to promote his business.
Mr Serjeant said he would be left with few other options than to close his business if the fees and charges were imposed.
"Where would I find $6000?" he said.
Bendigo Flying Club's Linda Beilharz said the proposed $12 landing fee might be a disincentive for pilots to practise landing - a crucial, and difficult, skill to develop.
She said the club would seek consideration of its not-for-profit status and community benefits if the City of Greater Bendigo went ahead with the charges, as the proposed annual fees were 'quite high'.
Ms Beilharz expected the club could pay about $20,000 a year under suggested rates.
"We could pay a smaller fee," she said.
She said the club, which has about 230 members, understood the city had a cost burden associated with running the airport.
Leased sites at the airport, like hangars, generate most of the income for airport maintenance and upkeep.
Airport users without a hangar can fly in and fly out for free, at the moment.
Material distributed to airport users about the proposed fees and charges, which the Bendigo Advertiser has sighted, said there was no fair and equitable structure to charge non-tenants for use of the airport.
Ms Beilharz said the flying club saw merit in a proposed $11 aircraft parking fee.
Daylesford resident Fred Woods had questions about the whole idea, including a suggested $12 passenger fee.
He said he travelled to Bendigo at least twice a week to make use of the facilities and training curriculum offered by the Bendigo Flying Club, and had subsequently spent thousands in the city.
Mr Woods was considering either building or leasing a hangar at the airport. He said he was thinking of looking elsewhere, and doubted he'd be the only one.
"I believe that the proposal to charge landing and other fees is short-sighted in the extreme," Mr Woods said.
"There are no tolls charged for roads leading into the city. It is recognised that in order to attract people and business into the area this sort of infrastructure is vital. And it is exactly the same with the airport."
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City of Greater Bendigo business services manager Ben Devanny said the airport had run at a loss for many years.
"We'd love to get it to profit making," he said.
But he expected it would be years before that happened, even if fees and charges were introduced.
"It's just the cost of maintaining what is a very big facility," Mr Devanny said
He said the city had looked at the examples of other airports in developing the proposed fees and charges.
"We're aware some users definitely don't like the idea of paying to use the airport," Mr Devanny said.
Asked whether fees might deter some airport users, he said: "Fees or charges for anything in life could be a deterrent, for sure."
"If we do bring in charges, they would need to be fair and reasonable."
The proposal is open to public submissions until next Friday, and is expected to come before council in the first half of 2020.
"It's not something we want to rush," Mr Devanny said.
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