Funds, but no set plan

DESPITE receiving millions of dollars in funding, GippsAero is yet to confirm if it will use Latrobe Regional Airport as the manufacturing hub for its new 18-seat aircraft.

Federal Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Simon Crean announced the success of Latrobe Regional Airport’s $3 million Regional Development Australia Fund application yesterday.

However, claims from GippsAero it is still negotiating with other parties keen on the development of the GA18 aircraft, has not fazed Latrobe City Mayor Ed Vermeulen.

“It’s true to say (GippsAero) haven’t made an absolute commitment… but I’m very confident of (the manufacturing) taking place here,” Cr Vermeulen said.

“We’re doing everything we can to enhance our prospects and we’re in constant discussions with Mahindra Aerospace (GippsAero’s major shareholder).”

GippsAero financial controller and business operations manager Adam Broadway said the success of council’s RDAF application and previous funding allocated towards the airport was a “step in the right direction”.

While Mr Broadway did not confirm the production of the GA18 would take place in the Latrobe Valley, he commended government commitments to the region and the company.

“Currently at the airport there is no facility that can house the GA18 for the development phase or production phase, so this (funding) is the start of the production phase of that aircraft,” Mr Broadway said.

“This enables investors to come in and it prepares a site for them, for the production facility.”

The aeronautics company had previously produced eight-seater and 10 seater aircrafts at the Latrobe Regional Airport site in Morwell.

Funding from the RDAF application will be used towards upgrading and expanding the airport site, aimed to assist GippsAero in the manufacturing of commercial aircraft such as the GA18. Mr Crean described the funding as a “downpayment” on the economic diversification of the region.

He said the project had potential to encourage private investment, adding it “is also contingent upon the region to diversify its economic base”.

“In aerospace and aviation there are huge opportunities globally… but you need the physical infrastructure for that,” Mr Crean said.

“That’s what the airport is about and this has the potential to really generate new investment into the future, including not just Australian investment, but overseas investment.”

The project is estimated to create 170 new jobs, with Cr Vermeulen adding once the expansion of the airport is completed, it will bring in 300 permanent jobs in the local aerospace industry.