Grant aids easier access to airfield


PENINSULA Aero Club members are flying high with news they have been given $50,000 for a new access road off Stuart Rd.

The grant was confirmed in the Mornington Peninsula Shire budget on Wednesday night.

Vice-president Jack Vevers said the club would match the grant to build a $100,000 single lane road with a turning circle.

“It will offer a safer and more efficient access point to the airfield to refurbish aircraft with water and fuel in emergencies, and assist with patient transfers,” Mr Vevers said.

The club will spend another $200,000 building a dual use hangar for use by emergency services as a triage or respite centre.

“More often than not the crews are operating out in the heat working from dawn to dusk in very trying conditions,” he said.

He said access to the airfield was “a convoluted process” at present.

“Transport vehicles have to go through private property and they do cause damage and we are left with the bill.”

Cr Lyn Bowden said she had pushed for the grant in recognition of the airfield’s role in tackling emergencies, such as bushfires and patient evacuation.

“They contribute a lot to the community – they’ve done some really good work,” Cr Bowden said.

“In emergencies they are able to airlift victims through the Angel of Mercy helicopter flights [using a Bell Jet Ranger] of which a lot of people are not aware. And they provide a refuelling service to the CFA tankers.

“In the big scheme of things this grant is recognition of their work; they are very generous.”

The aero club surveyed local residents to get their views on the road plans. “The result was overwhelming support,” Mr Vevers said. “We also opened up the airfield for the public so they could see what we do.”

Mr Vevers said the grant was “a vote of confidence from the shire of the role we play in the community”.

“It’s a good example of the partnership between us, the shire and the community. The people support us and one or two of them have had the need to use our emergency services.”

Planning permits have been acquired and drawings completed for the 5.5 metre by 230 metre road with truck turning bay at the end. It offers provision for helicopter take offs and landings which previously were confined to private land.

Mr Vevers said the road would allow significant numbers of people into the airfield for evacuation by helicopter. “We will be capable of handling significant emergencies,” he said.

“[At present,] if there was a major fire on the southern peninsula there is no way people would be able to get out. For example, we were flat out coping with the Hastings fires last January. Without the support of helicopters it could have been a disaster.”

First published in the Western Port News – 30 June 2015


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