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A flying first for Bega promises outstanding community benefits

Sports Aviation Flight College Australia has prepared an extensive proposal for a major aviation education export earner and jobs generator at Frogs Hollow

Sports Aviation Flight College Australia has prepared an extensive proposal for a major aviation education export earner and jobs generator at Frogs Hollow

The first recreational flying school in Australia focussed on the booming Chinese and broader Asia-Pacific recreational aviation market is preparing for take-off in Bega, with multiple community benefits to NSW’s far South Coast.

Sports Aviation Flight College Australia Ltd (SAA) announced it has secured the purchase of the land and existing airstrips for the development of a facility that will host hundreds and ultimately more than a thousand Chinese and other Asian students annually, bringing jobs, skills and income into the district.

The planned Frogs Hollow Sports Aviation Flight college – for which a Development Approval proposal was lodged this week with the Bega Valley Shire Council – is based on an existing-use regional aviation facility which has hosted flying for more than 70 years about 13km south of Bega.

The new development will be led by the youngest man ever to circumnavigate Australian by air, Sports Aviation Flight College Australia Director Mitch Boyle, who was just 16 when in 2008 he flew his light aircraft more than 90 hours to circumnavigate Australia – a feat that has not been equalled since by one so young. Mitch, a South Coast resident in his schooldays and early career – wants to give back to the South Coast some of the opportunity and excitement that living in the community gave him.

Major benefits of the proposal to the South Coast include:

  • Scores of local jobs in the construction phase as accommodation and facilities are added to Frogs Hollow, where normal separate aviation activities will be able to continue. Local contractors will provide the backbone of this growth phase.
  • More than 200 permanent full-time jobs as the College ramps up activities, with opportunities including involvement in the exciting and expanding aviation industry for young men and women who might otherwise have to leave the district to seek employment. Direct wage benefits alone will be worth multiple millions of dollars a year to the South Coast.

In addition to these 200 direct jobs, hundreds of other jobs will be created due to the flow-on effect driven by the highly paid permanent jobs at the flight college. All the Bega district service industries will be direct beneficiaries, including tourist and service industries.

TAFE jobs will also be created for the local Bega TAFE, because many of the staff will need training prior to working at the college. This includes office, kitchen, catering, grounds, assembly and maintenance staff.

  • A growing community of students living at the college and spending in the community, with a first intake of 120 by December 2018, doubling in 2019 and ultimately rising to 1200 per year. SAA’s business structure is built around a modular system with each module being a Squadron consisting of no more than 36 students at any one time. Teaching resources and facilities are allocated to each Squadron, making the business a highly scalable operation locally (and ultimately nationally).
  • A growing advanced technology skills-based business with high potential, high income clientele of the type needed by diversifying regional centres such as Bega.

 

China’s 12 existing pilot schools catering to the country’s growing wealthy middle class are already at full capacity. “The deregulation of China’s airspace and the opening of the country to recreational aviation over the past couple of years opens the floodgates for the Chinese middle class to participate in recreational aviation throughout China,” says Mitch. Bloomberg estimates China will need to hire 100 pilots a week for the next 20 years to meet skyrocketing travel demand.

The bulk of students attending SAA will be from China, which is expected to become the world’s largest aviation market in the next 20 years, according to the country’s State Council. It will need to build more than 500 general aviation airports across the country to accommodate more than 5,000 all-purpose aircraft by the 2020s.  It is estimated China will need 10,000 light aircraft to meet the general aviation sector’s rapid expansion, says Mitch.

“Australia can play a huge part in this transformation by providing highly professional facilities such as the one planned for Bega, which will provide essential first-step qualifications and experience through training and qualifications such as the Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC) and Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) available through the Sports Aviation Flight College. The Recreational Pilot Certificates and Recreational Pilot Licences are a stepping stone to further flight qualifications as well as a desirable attainment in their own right for the increasingly affluent and expanding Chinese middle class.

SAA Director Mitch Boyle, who is the youngest person to fly solo right around Australia, raising over a quarter of a million dollars for a village in East Timor.

SAA Director Mitch Boyle, who is the youngest person to fly solo right around Australia, raising over a quarter of a million dollars for a village in East Timor.

“These qualifications – from which graduates can use their hands-on experience to move on to private pilot licences and ultimately Commercial and Airline Pilot Licences – will be gained flying in one of the world’s safest and highest standard flying environments, Australia and one of its most beautiful areas, the South Coast. In these ideal circumstances, students based on the South Coast can obtain the experience and confidence to tackle the next step in their career,” says Mitch, who is a licensed flying instructor.

He says his personal experience in the joy of flying and teaching others to do it is hugely applicable to China, which will need to train 500,000 civilian pilots by 2035, according to China’s Civil Aviation Authority.

Local benefits

“And these young students will bring huge benefits into the local and national community as they live and train here and forge ongoing links of enduring value to Australia and China’s shared close future.”

“Seven recreational cultural fun days will be organised within each SAA 12- week syllabus. These fun days will have a strong focus on Australian culture, nature and wildlife. It will be a great opportunity for the students to engage with the local community and experience a lot of the traditional Australian and South Coast lifestyle.”

“Australia is already a major Chinese student and tourist destination, with Chinese visitors citing our unspoilt natural environment as one of the biggest attractions and a major feature of the South Coast. Student tuition and accommodation spending throughout Australia is already worth more than $10 billion a year to the country – a booming market in which the South Coast can share.”

It is estimated that there are over 550,000 foreign students in Australia and 29% (just over 160,000) of them are Chinese*. They are predominantly spending their money in the capital cities, where there are the most educational opportunities, but the new College will allow the South Coast to experience some of the benefits too.

(*According to the Australian Government Department of Education and Training’s July 2017 report, “International Student Data Monthly Summary.”)

The flight college will generate significant revenue for the local region, and all money generated will stay in Australia as ‘export dollars.’ As an additional source of revenue, when each aircraft’s engine is at half its operating life it will be sold into China to former students who are familiar with the plane and enjoy using it. Not only does this create further export sales for Australia, but it ensures that the college is always operating with new planes for its training.

Cultural fun days will be built into each SAA course to introduce Chinese students to the unique South Coast lifestyle and beautiful natural surroundings

Cultural fun days will be built into each SAA course to introduce Chinese students to the unique South Coast lifestyle and beautiful natural surroundings

Community safeguards

Building, infrastructure and surrounds. SAA has provided Bega Council, as part of the development application, with a number of professional consultant reports, including an Environmental Biodiversity Report, a Fire Safety Capability Assessment, a Fuel Hazard Analysis Report, a Water Management Report, a Waste Water Management report, a Traffic Impact Report and an Acoustic Report, as well as detailed survey, site plans and building details. The reports and plans provided to Council detail the long-term sustainable use of the long-standing 70-year old Frogs Hollow airfield as a Flight College for decades into the future. 

Safety and environmental issues. The standard and type of aircraft and the type of localised flying planned by the college pose fewer safety and environmental issues than the average car. The light aircraft involved – typically weighing half to a third of the weight of a standard ute or 4wd – are equipped to the strict standards of safety and environmental compliance of the Australian aviation industry, which is itself one of the world’s safest.

The standard of training and professional guidance given to the overseas students will be second to none, says Mitch Boyle, who is himself a highly experienced instructor who holds a Recreational Pilots certificate, Commercial Pilots License, Multi-Engine endorsement and Recreational and General Aviation Instructor Rating as well as a Diploma in Aviation. Among the state-of-the-art safety features built into SAA aircraft are ballistic parachutes, which provide aircraft with the ability to deploy a safety parachute in emergency situations.

Flying is considered one of the safest modes of transport today and Recreational Aviation is no exception. Recreational Aviation Australia (RAA) – the peak body in Australia responsible for administering ultralight, recreational and Light Sport Aircraft operations – currently has over 3,500 registered ultralight and Light Sport Aircraft, over 10,000 members and 174 qualified Flight Training Schools across Australia. RAA members collectively perform over 350,000 landings and spend approximately 200,000 hours in the air annually in flights all over Australia.

SAA will report directly to RAA, which sets the minimum requirements for flight colleges in Australia. RAA governs recreational aviation, including certification and maintenance and is responsible for the development and promotion of flying safety standards.

Course structure and scalable Squadrons

Both the course structure and the expansion plan of the flight school work on the principles of ‘Squadrons’.

From day one, each student will be assigned to their Squadron, which will be signified by a native Australian animal such as a Koala or Platypus. Each Squadron will be made up of 36 students. These students will progress through the course in groups of twelve and interact with the other Squadrons through social activities and competitions.

All of the infrastructure and resources are also planned around each Squadron (as detailed below). This means that the school is easily scalable based on the number of Squadrons that are added.

Each 36-student Squadron requires the following staff and resources:

  • A Chief Flight Instructor
  • Two Aviation English Instructors
  • One Flight Theory Instructor
  • Four flight instructors
  • Six Squadron leaders
  • Two Squadron assistants
  • Two chefs
  • Three teaching blocks
  • Three accommodation blocks
  • Six Aircraft (four active in training)

All of these resources have been built around each Squadron, making it simple to scale the operation upwards and add more Squadrons as the College expands.

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Sports aviation believes the SAA College 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.

To provide a solution that caters to the Chinese market’s needs, the course is to be run as a ‘package’ for each student.

Each 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 built on-site. These facilities will include classrooms for the aviation English and flight theory, individual rooms and amenities for each student.

Sports Aviation Australia flight schools will be overseen by a qualified and experienced Chief Flying Instructor (CFI). The CFI’s are often supported by Senior Instructors (SI) who are similarly skilled and able to provide the highest standard of training.

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The aircraft used predominately throughout flight training is the Bantam (top). This plane is a good all-rounder and is manufactured by a NZ company called MicroAviation. SAA has negotiated exclusively this aircraft for flight college training and post-study sales into China. The aircraft will be assembled at the flight college’s aircraft assembly facility at Frogs Hollow. Other aircraft deployed by SAA include the Australian-manufactured trike, left, on which students will receive an introductory course. The third type is the more traditional general aviation type of aircraft, the Brumby, right, which will be used for more advanced RPL training. The Brumby is an Australian-designed plane manufactured in Cowra, NSW.

To ensure a consistent and safe experience, all RAA schools are subject to compliance audits undertaken by RAA. The schools operate a variety of aircraft, which are also required to undergo a rigorous maintenance program to ensure reliability and safety for all RAA members and the community of which they are part.

Brad StebbingComment