Take off with the sale of regional airport in WA

The Merredin Aerodrome has been used to train pilots and as a landing zone for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale
The Merredin Aerodrome has been used to train pilots and as a landing zone for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

If you’re looking for an opportunity to spread your wings and literally have your head in the clouds, Merredin Aerodrome in the West Australian wheatbelt has been listed for sale.

The regional airport, 260km east of Perth, has hit the market as part of a widespread sell-off of assets owned by the China Southern West Australian Flying College, which went into voluntary liquidation in December leaving 62 staff unemployed.

The operation, which was a training college for China Southern Airlines pilots, also ran had a service at Jandakot Airport in Perth.

China Southern Airlines purchased the Merredin airport from the Shire of Merredin for $1 in 1995 and spent more than $1 million upgrading the airstrip for use as part of the training college as well as a public airport.

Like many other regional airports, the Merredin Aerodrome has struggled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

Burgess Rawson Perth director Chris Tonich said the Merredin Aerodrome presented a rare chance to buy an operational airport and believed the proposition would have widespread appeal.

The sale includes a total landholding of 834ha across three titles, two runways including a 1.2km strip with lighting, a control platform, aircraft hangar, operations buildings and four training classrooms.

In addition, there is on-site accommodation and housing with 18 residential properties, a staff quarters and eight vacant lots. Aircraft are not included in the sale.

“The entire portfolio would suit a broad range of buyers,” Mr Tonich said.

“With record low rental vacancies and a current housing shortage across WA the 26 homes and land sites within the portfolio would suit investors and owner-occupiers seeking home ownership.

“The aerodrome had until recently serviced pilot training and currently provides a landing opportunity for emergency services such as The Royal Flying Doctor (Service) and WA Police. We believe interest will come from local and state government as well as private aviation and training groups.”

Mr Tonich declined to offer a price guide, but stressed that significant investment had been made to the airport, runway and accommodation since it was purchased in 26 years ago.

The property is made up 834 hectares spread over three titles. Picture: realcommercial.com.au/for-sale

REA Group economist Anne Flaherty said while the airport was a unique prospect, it would not be without potential challenges due to its niche marketability and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector.

“For someone looking to make a counter-cyclical investment and who can afford to buy now, it could be an opportune time for a person who is willing to take on that additional risk over the next few years until airlines recover,” Ms Flaherty said.

“It could be a good opportunity for somebody with a long-term hold game because right now they may be able to purchase it for a competitive price.”

Merredin Shire temporary chief executive Mark Dacombe said the airport was a crucial part of the local community and the council wanted to see it remain an operational airfield.

“The Merredin Aerodrome is considered by the council to be a strategic asset for the region. First and foremost, it is used regularly by emergency services, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and police; and secondly, it’s used for agricultural aviation and crop-dusting,” Mr Dacombe said.

“While it’s not used a lot at the moment, it is used for recreational flying and also by other allied health services like a dentist that flies in to provide services to the town and the region. So, for those reasons, the council is keen that it continues as an operational airfield.”

Mr Dacombe said the airport had continued to operate despite the appointment of administrators, but it no longer provided a refuelling service.

Last year, the Regional Aviation Association of Australia called on the federal government to offer the industry a lifeline amid the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying regional air services provided a vital link to the survival and wellbeing of rural communities.

The RAAA flagged that many regional air service operators were “only days from closing down” after state border closures and the almost total loss of patronage caused by coronavirus.

The federal government subsequently offered financial assistance to airlines for essential regional aviation services and recently extended that offer until September this year.

Offers for the sale of the Merredin Aerodrome close on July 8 at 2pm.