Common User Hangar
Cairns Airport is the only regional airport in Australia with international capacity, making it an ideal destination for customers looking for highly-capable maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services.
However, with the growing demand for turboprop and regional jet maintenance, the existing MROs at Cairns Airport are operating at close to capacity. The lack of adequate infrastructure has led to grounded aircraft and an estimated loss of $15m in business in the past 12 months.
To address this issue in the General Aviaion sector, there is a pressing need for a new, fit-for-purpose common user hangar facility.
Benefits to the region
The development of the common user hangar facility would not only solve the capacity constraint issue but also create opportunities for the expansion of Far North Queensland’s general aviation sector. The project will support 100 jobs throughout construction and create additional skilled and non-skilled job opportunities, attract and retain talent, and create additional apprenticeships and career pathways. Furthermore, it will attract investment across the general aviation sector and downstream industries.
The Queensland Government invests $45m to deliver a 10,000m² hangar within the Cairns Airport Eastern Aviation Precinct which is to be owned and operated under a common user model incorporating commercial general aviation partner engagement.
While demand for turboprop maintenance in Cairns continues to grow, another significant opportunity is regional jet maintenance, with about half of the fleet currently maintained overseas.
Although regional jets are capable of long ferry flights to access cheaper international maintenance providers, airlines with high asset utilisation prefer to have their jets maintained domestically to reduce downtime.
Cairns is the only regional airport in Australia with international capacity to attract new customers to the region with two highly-capable MROs working at close to capacity but willing and able to expand if infrastructure were available.
Latest economic data shows Cairns’ aircraft manufacturing and repair services sector contributed $36m value added to the regional economy, supporting more than 372 jobs1. Overall, the MRO and training facilities at the Cairns Airport consists of about 700 employees, as well as a steady stream of apprentices (two MROs alone offer 25 apprenticeships annually) providing critical training and career pathways in trades as well as highly skilled professional roles. Overall, the general aviation sector contributed over $88m and 913 jobs¹.
Steadily increasing demand has seen MROs outgrow ageing hangar and maintenance facilities in the Cairns Airport General Aviation Precinct, leaving aircraft grounded and resulting in the precinct turning away an estimated $15m in business in the past 12 months due to lack of adequate infrastructure.
There is a pressing need to develop a new, fit-for-purpose common user hangar facility. This will offer economies of scale in construction and will enable MROs to meet urgent demand while ensuring the continuation of critical services as well as growth and expansion of the sector.
A commitment towards the common user hangar complements Cairns Airport’s current plans to significantly expand capacity to support growth in the general aviation sector. As part of its Eastern Aviation Precinct development, Cairns Airport is investing ($25m for Stage 1) to create new infrastructure (taxiways, aprons, roads and services) to support the growth of its aviation partners onsite. This infrastructure will unlock opportunities for a new aeromedical precinct, a new MRO precinct with capability for larger aircraft and dedicated heliport infrastructure that will remove any conflict with runway operations, and will lead to an increase in the frequency of scenic reef flights.
Cairns Airport is committed to be net zero (Scope 1 and 2) by 2025, and more broadly is supporting the transition of the aviation industry where possible. By 2025 all airport tenants will be supplied by 100% renewable power from a local renewable project. The airport is also working with industry to facilitate sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on site and will seek to provision for new infrastructure within the new Eastern Aviation Precinct to accommodate this initiative. Dedicated spaces to support aeromedical and emergency activities in addition to a specific helicopter precinct which would reduce delays and boost runway capacity for all air services including passenger and cargo.
¹ Cairns Airport. Economic Assessment & Airport Census, September 2022
2024-25 Queensland Budget Submission
View the full list of projects and policies that feature in our 2024-25 Queensland Budget Submission.