Fuelling connectivity and economic growth: Advance Cairns calls for investment in Far North Queensland General Aviation sector
  • Advance Cairns, Far North Queensland’s independent economic development and advocacy organisation, has launched its General Aviation priority, forming part of a broader 2024-25 budget submission to the Queensland Government.
  • Common User Hangar: A $45 million investment is needed to develop a 10,000m2 common user hangar, addressing the pressing need for new, expanded facilities. Current organisations are operating at full capacity, leading to grounded aircraft and missed business opportunities estimated at least $15 million in the past year.
  • Cessna Caravan Simulator: An investment of $8 million is required to establish Australia’s first Cessna Caravan full flight simulator and facilities. The simulator would be the first outside the United States and would transform critical pilot training across commercial and humanitarian sectors. This would establish Cairns as the national centre for specific pilot training across Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific.
  • Short-term Accommodation: A $10 million investment towards the development of quality short-term accommodation within the Cairns Airport precinct to address critical demand, specifically for students, as part of a broader accommodation development project.

November 13, 2023 (Cairns) – Advance Cairns, Far North Queensland’s independent economic development and advocacy organisation, today released its General Aviation priority urging the Queensland Government to invest in key infrastructure projects to support the region’s growing aviation sector, as part of a push to build a diversified, resilient economic future.

This paper forms part of Advance Cairns’ broader 2024-25 budget submission, the last budget in this term of the current Queensland Government.

Cairns Airport’s General Aviation Precinct currently houses more than 100 businesses, including major maintenance organisations, education providers, and rescue and charter flight services. The precinct plays a critical role in maintaining connectivity across the region, serving Cape York, Torres Strait, Papua New Guinea, and the wider Asia-Pacific. The demand for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services in Cairns has surged, leading to the need for expanded infrastructure. Advance Cairns estimates that at least $15 million in business was turned away in the past 12 months.
The Advance Cairns General Aviation submission highlights the ever-increasing pressure on the existing maintenance, repair, and overhaul sector (MRO), with the precinct now at capacity and turning away business due to lack of adequate infrastructure. The proposal recommends an investment of $45 million by the Queensland Government to develop a 10,000m² hangar under a common user principle, within Cairns Airport’s new Eastern Aviation Precinct.

The submission also calls for an $8 million investment in what would be a nationwide first, a Cessna Caravan full flight simulator. With this aircraft widely used under challenging conditions in remote locations across the region, this simulator would introduce a new and enhanced method of pilot training, creating a safer, richer, and more sustainable training program. This would position Cairns as the national and regional hub for Cessna Caravan training, benefiting commercial and humanitarian services, Indigenous communities, and the wider Pacific region.

A critical element of the expansion of the aviation sector is the need for quality short-term accommodation within the airport precinct. This is needed to support professional, skilled, and contract workers as the region grows, and ultimately, to provide much-needed affordable purpose-built housing for students.

Quotes attributed to Advance Cairns Chief Executive Officer Jacinta Reddan

“An investment in our regional aviation sector would bring significant benefit to the wider region and is part of our push for continued diversification of the economy. These initiatives will not only enhance the General Aviation sector but also strengthen Cairns’ position as a national and regional hub for specialised aviation training. We urge the Queensland Government’s support for these transformative projects.”

“By investing in these projects, the Queensland Government could propel Cairns and Far North Queensland as a premier hub for aviation training and services, fostering economic growth, creating jobs, and ensuring vital connectivity for the region.”

“The accommodation initiative is also an exciting response to the need for short-term – and especially student – housing in Cairns. It would meet a much-needed gap in the market.”

Quotes attributed to Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer Richard Barker

“Economic data shows that Cairns’ aircraft manufacturing and repair services sector adds $36 million to the regional economy per annum, and provides more than 370 direct jobs. The broader general aviation sector contributes $88 million and more than 900 jobs, underscoring its pivotal role in the region’s economic landscape.”

“The new common user hangar would unlock much-needed capacity to maintain and repair fixed wing and rotary aircraft, benefitting existing operators across the precinct and positioning Cairns as a national leader in this sector.”

Quotes attributed to Skytek Chief Executive Officer Alana McKenna

“The investment in the much-needed large hangar would unlock opportunity for business and importantly create further jobs for skilled and unskilled positions. This additional infrastructure would create rewarding career pathways for students in the Far North, with options for study through Cairns Aviation Skills Centre and CQUniversity, both situated on the airport. Most importantly it would allow us to service customers’ maintenance needs that are only increasing in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Quotes attributed to MAF International Chief Operations Officer Norman Baker

“A flight simulator of this quality would not only assist our organisation, as we develop pilots to bring humanitarian support for remote communities in Australia and around the world, but would also help the Cairns region to become a hub for aviation skills.”

“We calculate that a simulator would reduce by two-thirds the time spent burning fuel because of training in the air, which makes it much better for staff, the aircraft, and most importantly the environment.”

“MAF flies the Cessna Caravan aircraft from our current training base in Mareeba and in MAF programmes around the world including Arnhem Land and Papua New Guinea. With regulator approval, we would expect high demand to use this simulator for the training needs of pilots across Australia. This is relevant because the Cessna Caravan (which can carry up to 14 occupants or 1000kg of freight) is not only a workhorse of remote aviation, it is also a valuable tool for pilots building experience even if they are pursuing an airline career flying larger aircraft.”

“We already have good connections within the industry, working with CQU and Aviation Australia to provide training, and MAF sees great value in supporting the next generation of pilots wherever they work. With Advance Cairns championing investment in a simulator type that currently does not exist outside the USA, we believe this region can lead the way.”

– Ends –

For further media comment and images:
Jacinta Reddan
Advance Cairns CEO
M: 0498 373 094

Namassana Holland-Beard
Advance Cairns Marketing &
Communications Manager
E: marketing@advancecairns.com
M: 0421 106 462

About Advance Cairns

Advance Cairns is the peak independent non-government Advocacy and Economic Development Organisation for Far North Queensland (FNQ). We are a-political and work beyond election cycles to deliver a stronger, more prosperous future for the FNQ region.

The Advance Cairns region covers 26 local government areas including Cairns Regional Council, Aurukun Shire, and the Gulf of Carpentaria. It serves an estimated population of 280,000 people.
Advance Cairns operates on a membership based model. Our members are socially responsible businesses that have committed to securing a legacy of prosperity for the region.

Under this model and as a collective voice, members have the opportunity to actively influence the strategic direction of Advance Cairns and ultimately the future of FNQ.

About Cairns Airport

Cairns Airport is one of Australia’s leading regional airports, providing air links regionally, domestically, and internationally. Pre-COVID, Cairns Airport was the nation’s seventh busiest for passenger movements, welcoming more than five million passengers per year and handling around 130,000 aircraft. Cairns is one of Australia’s most aviation-dependent communities, with more than three times as many passenger movements per resident than that of capital cities.

Situated at the gateway to Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands, Tablelands and Cassowary Coast, Cairns Airport is widely recognised as one of the most significant economic drivers in the Tropical North Queensland region. Cairns is the only place in the world where two natural UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites sit side-by-side; the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. These assets are ecologically, socially, and culturally important and their ties to tourism underpin the region’s economy.

About Skytek

With over 20 years of engineering experience in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar, Skytek, is uniquely placed to support aircraft operators across different cultural and regulatory environments.

Skytek provides specialist aviation-engineering services ranging from; logistics and supply chain management of parts, consumables, aircraft ground service support, as well as heavy maintenance including aircraft modification capability for both fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Our component overhaul is integral to providing our customers with a complete portfolio of service needs.

Headquartered in Cairns, Australia, Skytek has experienced licensed aircraft maintenance engineers that allow it to service and support fixed wing aircraft such as the 36 seat ATR 42 – 500 series. Recently Skytek’s expertise as a DHC-6 specialist in maintenance and rebuild capability has been recognised in its achievement as a Viking approved service centre.

Skytek’s multi discipline skill set allows it to maintain and rebuild the complete range of Bell helicopters, as well the Airbus aircraft primarily the AS350 series.

About MAF International

Mission Aviation Fellowship is an international Christian organisation whose purpose is to bring help, hope and healing through aviation to people living in isolation and poverty.

Every 5.5 minutes a MAF aircraft takes off or lands somewhere in the world, transporting people who live in remote villages and assisting missions, churches, aid and development agencies and others working to transform the lives of isolated communities that are cut off from the outside world.