Job hopes at Newquay Airport after expansion plan sealed
Business and community leaders have welcomed plans to expand a flight training centre which promises to bring highly skilled jobs to Cornwall.
Somerset-based helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland established its operational flight training centre, which provides facilities for air crew, pilot and engineers, at Newquay Cornwall Airport in 2010.
After securing up to £46 million from the Government's Regional Growth Fund, the company is planning to expand the centre as well as pursue new projects to make it less dependent on military contracts.
Al Titterington, managing director at Newquay Cornwall Airport, said: "AgustaWestland is a key partner of the airport and we have been working vigorously with them over the last 12 months to expand their operations at the airport.
"Flight operations have increased significantly since 2010 and the announcement further embeds our partnership and recognises Newquay Cornwall Airport as a key part of AgustaWestland's strategic objectives. This is a great boost for the airport."
The Yeovil-based firm has announced that it is to create 1,700 jobs in the UK, with the same number being safeguarded, after securing the funding, of which up to £46 million is from the Government's fund with the rest coming from the private sector. Its expansion at the airport's enterprise zone Aerohub will increase capacity and capability across its military and new civil platforms.
Cornwall Council leader Jim Currie said: "The council has supported investment in the development of the airport and is delighted at Agusta Westland's expansion of its business interests in Cornwall, which is not just positive for the airport but for Cornwall overall.
"A number of Cornish companies benefit from their presence at the airport and this will no doubt expand."
The Government announced details of the third round of the regional growth fund last week. The Westcountry has been provisionally awarded £72 million, which includes a £3.9 million grant for a small businesses after a joint bid by the Western Morning News and Plymouth University.
News of AgustaWestland's plans at Newquay was followed by a call on the Government to the regions to boost air travel. Last month, Jim French, chief executive of Exeter-based domestic airline Flybe, said a national aviation hub was crucial for regional access connectivity around the UK and beyond.
"It's no longer a matter of if there is to be new runway capacity, but where and when," he said. "It can't be ducked if Britain is to be a world economic player and it is more than a little depressing to see that, once again, the issue has been kicked into the long grass."
Now, Bristol Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair has said access to regional airports should be improved and tourism to regional areas supported. His comments came as Bristol Airport submitted its formal response to the Government's consultation on aviation strategy launched in July.
Mr Sinclair said: "As politicians, Government officials, aviation professionals and other stakeholders debate issues around capacity and new schemes costing billions of pounds, it is critical to remember that significant airport capacity already exists in the UK regions.
"Government policy should encourage the use of this capacity and should encourage private sector investment in long-term infrastructure.
"Not only will this relieve congestion at airports in south-east England, but it will help rebalance the economy at the same time."