Project gathers speed

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 10-Feb-2017

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BENDIGO is three months away from being able to land a 75-seat passenger aircraft, and a step closer to attracting a domestic carrier.

The new 1.6 kilometre runway at the Bendigo airport has passed all checks by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and was commissioned at noon on Wednesday.

Minutes later, an Air Ambulance made a debut landing on the new runway, a very smooth landing according to flight paramedic Troy Fosbender.

Then 25 Bendigo pilots took advantage of the occasion to test the new strip making Wednesday busier than usual for air traffic.

For the City of Greater Bendigo which is managing the $15 million upgrade, it is case of build it and they will come.

The council will have a fully operational upgraded airport by May to show prospective domestic airline carriers to which they will market Bendigo as a flight destination.

Chief executive Craig Niemann said Wednesday’s runway commissioning did not mean the airport was “open for business for everyone”.

“There is more work to be done in terms of taxiways and more infrastructure to be built,” Mr Niemann said.

“We have had some significant weather problems last year throughout the construction, but the contractors have caught up so we are expecting by May we will have all the infrastructure complete and it will be a whiz bang opening.”

Significantly, the airport was open throughout the entire construction period.

As of noon on Wednesday, the old runway became a taxiway.

“It has been a major project for a long time, lots of strategic disussions about where should the airport be, for a start,” Mr Niemann said.

“Once the decision was made, the masterplanning, the rezoning and the planning controls that had to go around that, the acquisition of land, relocation of roads, contracting to then do the infrastructure works and build the runway.

“Clearly the local users have been very patient but they can see what they are going to get is a fantastic new airport.”

Mr Niemann said the council was confident it could attract a passenger carrier.

“If we can get someone set up there it will be a major bonus in terms of flights to Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, whatever the offer may be,” he said.

“Our businesses today say this is really important for their future.”

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