Two small-plane manufacturers from South Africa and Italy have expressed interest in setting up at Wagin, increasing the town’s hopes of establishing itself as a regional aviation hub.
Wagin opened its new airport last October, after receiving nearly $291,000 as part of State Government funding for improvements at 29 airports, through the 2011-12 round of the Regional Airports Development Scheme.
Wagin Shire president Phillip Blight is confident the airport will be an economic boon for the area, and said houses with aircraft in the driveway were even a possibility. He stressed plans for the site were in the early stages of development.
“We have had preliminary interest from two small-plane manufacturers, one South African and the other Italian, since the redevelopment of the airport,” Mr Blight said. “The manufacturers are doing their due diligence about it at the moment I believe.
“We have the land, we have the airfield … we have also gridded the vacant area surrounding the airport into a potential subdivision for an airpark.”
Mr Blight said the airpark would allow small aircraft to be parked alongside houses in private hangars near the airport.
“It is a concept and at this stage it hasn’t gone far, but there is potential for all sorts of development with the 100 or so acres we have surrounding the airfield,” he said.
Mr Blight said another potential avenue was for a flight school in the area and a proposal for a business to run an aerial spray service was already before the council.
He said plans for the site were likely to move forward when the Shire’s new chief executive begins work early this year.
However, airport neighbour and owner of Wagin Kennels Jean McGregor is worried about increased air traffic over her property if pilots fail to observe flight paths.
“From my point of view if they observe the flight paths I am happy, but they need to observe the flight paths,” she said.
“Apart from the nuisance aspect, it concerns me from a safety point of view as well.”
Ms McGregor said she had spoken to the Shire about the issue and her neighbours were also worried.
“If they want to put in a training school here I don’t want to stop them doing that, but I just want to make sure there won’t be 80 planes flying over my house when I have dogs in my paddocks,” she said.