Australia Asia Flight Training plans to open a flight school in the country in September 2010 with a fleet of more than 40 Diamond training aircraft.

The school, to be based at New South Wales' Gunnedah airport, was originally set to open in July this year, but AAFT's former partner, Australian Wings Academy, pulled out of the venture for undisclosed reasons.

"The NSW government has been working closely with AAFT to secure this investment and will offset the cost of establishing the facility and fund payroll tax rebates," says Phil Costa, NSW minister for regional development.

Costa says the flying school is a A$13.5 million ($12.4 million) investment and will train up to 400 students a year. Construction of AAFT's flying school is due to begin in March and the school will open in September, says AAFT managing director Neil Hansford. AAFT plans to buy a fleet of up to 44 Diamond DA20/40/42s, says Hansford, former managing director of TNT International Aviation Services Europe and defunct UK carriers British World Airlines and Euro Direct Airlines.

AAFT has secured from the council a 30-year lease to operate at the airport with an option for a further 30 years, he says, adding that Gunnedah airport has a 1,600m (5,250ft)-long sealed runway and was formerly used for scheduled passenger services.

Pilot attrition rates in Australia have fallen dramatically this year as the economic downturn set in, but Hansford predicts that pilot recruitment will pick up significantly by the end of 2010.

He says AAFT will be catering for self-funded students from Australia, China, India, Malaysia and the Middle East.

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Source: Flight International