EXCLUSIVE: Bega flight college for Chinese pilots back on radar

Sports Aviation Australia CEO Mitch Boyle, formerly of Merimbula, is a qualified pilot and instructor.
Sports Aviation Australia CEO Mitch Boyle, formerly of Merimbula, is a qualified pilot and instructor.

The idea of a Chinese pilot college for Bega is once again taking flight.

Sports Aviation Australia (SAA) reports it has this week lodged a development application with the Bega Valley Shire Council for a flight college at Frogs Hollow designed to cater for the booming Chinese recreational aviation market.

SAA said it has secured the property with contracts exchanged and a deposit paid, but that the full sale is conditional on a successful DA.

The idea of turning the grass runway into a fully equipped college for Chinese students seeking their recreational pilot’s licence first came to attention in early 2015, but appeared to stall as further investment was sought and the option period on the property expired.

However, it is back in a big way, with SAA taking out a double-page advertisement in local media as well as fronting up to the council on Thursday complete with “comprehensive plans” and professional consultant reports into acoustics, waste and water management, environmental biodiversity and fuel and fire safety assessments.

“The reports and plans provided to council detail the long-term sustainable use of the long-standing Frogs Hollow airfield as a flight college for decades into the future,” SAA stated.

READ MORE: Frogs Hollow Flyers hope cordial relationship continues (2015)

SAA CEO Mitch Boyle, himself a pilot and qualified instructor, said the college would have multiple benefits for the region, including local jobs during construction and a purported “200 permanent full-time jobs as the college ramps up activities”.

The Bantam is proposed to be the predominant aircraft used at the flight college.

The Bantam is proposed to be the predominant aircraft used at the flight college.

He also said locally sourced materials would be used at every opportunity from construction through to operation.

With the regular intake and rotation of affluent students from China, SAA expected benefits would flow throughout the Bega Valley Shire, particularly in sectors like tourism, retail and hospitality.

“The South Coast is a beautiful place to live and we want these young students to fully engage with the local community, and make it a destination they recommend to family and friends as well as return to themselves.

“A lot of the employment opportunities here are seasonal, so having additional stable year-round jobs will help retain some of the region’s talented young people, who would otherwise have to move away to seek other job opportunities.”

The idea is not without its detractors though, with nearby residents raising concerns over noise and rural amenity, and the potential to devalue surrounding land.

Flight college ‘package’

Sports Aviation Australia believes the college proposed for Frogs Hollow is the only recreational flight college designed to specifically address the needs of the Chinese and broader Asia-Pacific recreational aviation industry and the first of its type for Australia.

SAA says it will provide the all-round package to Chinese student pilots at its Frogs Hollow college were it to get off the ground.

Each student package includes:

  • Assistance with Student Visa
  • Return flights to Australia
  • World recognised 7-week Aviation English course
  • 4-week RAA flight and flight theory syllabus
  • All required syllabus, learning material and flight training gear
  • Meals and accommodation
  • Recreational Aviation Australia (RAA) membership
  • Aircraft maintenance workshop introductory accreditation course
  • Aircraft assembly introductory accreditation course
  • Flight experience on three different aircraft
  • Australian cultural fun days to experience the district
  • Recognised RAA pilot certificate and recreational pilot’s licence and flight college certificates for aviation English, aircraft maintenance and aircraft assembly.

The flight college will have all of the student accommodation and teaching facilities on-site and the lessons overseen by a qualified and experienced Chief Flying Instructor.