10 January 2022

Will the aeroplane ever take off as a way to get to the beach?

| James Coleman
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Not quite an Airbus. Photo: South Coast Seaplanes.

When the car first graced the Western world, many of the advertisements sought to sow seeds into the imagination of potential buyers about how easy it would be to dash down to the beach for the day. After all, you’d be doing a lot more than 10 km/h on the back of a horse. The opportunities for travel would be endless.

But is there now an even faster way to get to the coast? It could be as easy as sitting back in your seat, watching the clouds and landscape dreamily drifting past below.

Australia’s south-east has faced unrelenting misfortune over the past couple of years, first with bushfires and now COVID-19. The NSW Government and local councils have been pulling out all the stops to bring tourism dollars back to the area, and a lot of this funding has been poured into regional airports as a way to attract visitors from further afield.

READ ALSO Airport extension will allow larger planes to fly into Merimbula

For instance, the first stage of infrastructure works has drawn to a close at Merimbula Airport.

The Bega Valley Shire Council owns and operates the airport and says it provides vital links for professional, legal, specialist and medical services and passengers for tourism, employment and business purposes. During the working week, Merimbula Airport sees anything from five to 10 flights every day.

The southern runway has been extended in the hope larger aircraft will be able to land safely, bringing more passengers with them.

Merimbula airport

The first QANTAS Link 717-200 (B717) flight into Merimbula Airport touched down in 2019. Photo: QANTAS.

The second phase of the project will involve resealing the runway and will require a full runway closure for six weeks from 31 January 2022. A third stage will continue polishing the runways before it’s job done in May 2022.

Bega Valley Shire Council Project Services Manager Daniel Djikic says they understand the closure will impact passenger services over a typically busy time for the South Coast, but the end product will be worth it.

“The overall aim of this project is to provide a runway suitable for larger aircraft and increased passenger numbers. With REX and QANTAS servicing the airport, we are making the strategic step of developing the airport for the future, bringing better services and increased investment to the shire.”

Meanwhile, airport works continue in Moruya in the Eurobodalla Shire.

The new Moruya Airport runway. Photo: ESC.

The new Moruya Airport runway, on standby. Photo: ESC.

The local council received funding commitments of $7.1 million from both the NSW and Australian governments in 2016 to begin a major redevelopment at the aging facility.

Since then, it has gained additional water and sewer lines, a new access road, and new taxiway, and surface and lighting upgrades to the main runway with improved parking facilities and additional aviation hangars to go. These upgrades will continue into 2022.

Moruya Airport receives up to five flights every day, as not only the major entrance by air into the South Coast, but also the ideal place to open the door of an aeroplane and jump out, equipped with a parachute and hope.

The town boasts the only skydive facility in Australia located on a waterfront. Skydive Oz has become a favourite for thrill-seekers in search of skydiving lessons, offering tandem jumps ranging between 10,000 and 15,000 feet.

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Along with Nowra and Narooma, Moruya is also famous for its seaplanes. For $99 a person, these offer tourists a tour of the coast from the air, safely out of reach of the sharks and budgie smugglers below.

South Coast Seaplanes are also interested in adding Canberra to the loop, after the National Capital Authority came out in support of a proposal to have seaplanes coming and going on Lake Burley Griffin.

Initially, this would consist of short scenic flights around Canberra using single-engine Maule aircraft, but the ultimate goal is to have packaged products, mainly targeted at international tourists, that include direct connections to the South Coast and the Snowy Mountains.

All this flying doesn’t come cheap though. Prices for a flight from Canberra to Merimbula start from $320, and not only is a flight to Moruya almost double the price but it also involves a lengthy stopover in Sydney.

You could buy a lot of petrol for that.

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Chris O’Brien2:22 pm 10 Jan 22

Why will it be so much cheaper to fly from CBR to Merimbula than from CBR to Moruya? That is ridiculous when Moruya is so much closer! And why does it have to include a lengthy stopover in Sydney? This arrangement is doomed to fail. It doesn’t make any sense.

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