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22 July, 2021

Boosting air services into regional and remote communities

FOR many regional communities and towns, the only constant link to the major cities is air. Each year the annual wet season will cut road and rail access throughout western Queensland and the gulf.

By Peter McCullagh

One aviation company is very familiar with difficulties remote community residents face. Queensland-owned aviation company Skytrans has provided essential air services throughout north Queensland for the past six years, since its relaunch in 2015.

This week, Skytrans announced they will be vying to take off to new destinations on five regulated routes throughout regional and remote Queensland.

Skytrans will be competing in the Queensland Government tender for regulated air routes across the State. The tender closes Monday August 9, 2021.

Skytrans Chief Executive Officer Alan Milne said the Queensland-owned company was proud to put forward its proposal to better service regional and remote destinations.

“Serving regional and remote Queenslanders with reliable passenger and freight services is in our DNA,” Mr Milne said.

“Air services are the lifeblood of these communities. We’ll demonstrate in our tender how Skytrans services will better connect communities and support economic and jobs growth in the regions.”

Mr Milne has almost four decades of experience in the aviation industry including stints with Qantas and Air Niugini.

Skytrans Chairman Mr Peter Collings is one of regional Queensland’s pioneering aviators with decades of experience serving rural and regional communities as the owner of companies including Macair and West Wing Airlines – which remains in the Skytrans family.

The ownership and management team also includes NRL legend and North Queensland Cowboys premiership hero Johnathan Thurston. It now has more than 100 staff, with a head office in Cairns and regional offices in Townsville, Brisbane and Horn Island.

The current regulated routes Skytrans is vying for include:

Western 1: Brisbane-Toowoomba-St George-Cunnamulla-Thargomindah

Western 2:Brisbane-Toowoomba-Charleville-Quilpie-Windorah-Birdsville-Bedourie-Boulia-Mt Isa

Northern 1: Townsville-Winton-Longreach

Northern 2: Townsville-Hughenden-Richmond-Julia Creek-Mount Isa

Gulf: Cairns-Normanton-Karumba-Mornington Island-Burketown-Doomadgee-Mount Isa

Mr Milne said Skytrans had a proven history of working in regional and remote communities and had a strong reputation for community engagement.

He said Skytrains had played an integral role in fast-tracking the rollout of the COVID vaccine to the Torres Strait by offering free freight for the vaccines and heavily discounted rates for Queensland Health staff and other medical equipment.

“We understand our responsibility in connecting regional and remote Queensland communities with health services and that’s why we did whatever we could to keep Queenslander’s safe during the pandemic,” Mr Milne said.

Michael Healty, Queensland’s Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development believes a strong regional airline industry is essential for Far North Queensland.

“People need to travel to and from regional Queensland for a variety of reasons.

“This tender will be reviewed by an independent panel, ensuring the best and right choice is made for our regional communities.

“As a Far North Queenslander, I would love to see a locally based business expand, offering increased employment for our region as well as great economic and tourism opportunities for all of Queensland.

“Skytrans has a great reputation throughout the Cape and the North. I would be thrilled to see them expand; it would be good for the north but definitely good for Queensland,” Mr Healy said.

Skytrans had a fleet of five De Havilland Canada Dash 8-100 aircraft, which can be configured to hold up to 36 passengers, as well as five Cessna 208B Grand Caravans.

“The Dash 8-100 is the perfect aircraft for these routes and it already makes up the backbone of our fleet,” Mr Milne said.

“If successful, we would be increasing the size of our Dash 8-100 fleet to eight aircraft. More planes also means more Queenslanders working as part of the Skytrans team.”

Skytrans flies thousands of passengers each year to destinations across Cape York and the Torres Strait. The airline also transports approximately 300,000 kilograms of freight annually. 

Skytrans also has a charter flight business which services the resource sector.

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