Mining boom gave Network Aviation a flying start
Mining boom gave Network Aviation a flying start

Perth businessman Lindsay Evans admits WA's booming fly-in, fly-out industry took him and his Network Aviation to a buy-out surprisingly quickly.

Mr Evans founded Network Aviation in 1998 following a seven-year stint as general manager at Skippers Aviation. Network's start-up fleet consisted of just two planes, together seating not much more than a dozen passengers.

But as the State's mining sector cranked up, so did demand for fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) services.

By the time Qantas came knocking this year, Network had grown to become WA's third-biggest regional airline, boasting two 100-seat Fokker 100 jets, six 30-seat Embraer Brasilias turboprobs and 150 employees.

On Monday, Qantas marked the completion of protracted negotiations by announcing the purchase of Network for an undisclosed sum - thought to be about $30 million - markedly increasing its share of WA's FIFO sector.

Mr Evans - Network's managing director and 49.9 per cent shareholder - said Network's growth had been beyond anything he imagined.

"When we started in 1998 we had two aircraft, a Cessna 310, which carries five passengers, and a Cessna Conquest, which carries 10 passengers," he said. "Since that time the mining industry has grown dramatically and our fleet has grown along with our customers. Their mines have grown in size so our aircraft have increased in size."

Network's clients included Aditya Birla, Consolidated Minerals and Xstrata Nickel.

Mr Evans said the Qantas purchase had been well received by staff. He was partnered in the airline by Subiaco-based commercial lawyer Nick Murfett and former VDM Group chief operating officer Stuart Cuthbert, who each held a 25.05 per cent stake.

"I think as a business owner you're always thinking about an exit strategy and this purchase has been exceedingly well received by the staff and me," he said. "I think it positions the company for a very strong future."

Under the deal, Network will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Qantas and join its regional network, QantasLink. It will continue to trade under the Network Aviation banner, and retain its staff and management, including Mr Evans, who remains chief executive.

Announcing the purchase, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the acquisition would provide Qantas with a new revenue stream and room for further diversification. The carrier is now looking at how to expand the Network fleet and its operations.

The West Australian

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