Around 20 years ago, the original developer of the Bellvista Estate (Lensworth) sought approval from Caloundra Council to build Stage 1. Caloundra Council did not grant the approval because of the development’s proximity to Caloundra Aerodrome. Lensworth then took the development application to the State Government on appeal which overturned Council’s decision and approval was finally granted.
A major player in the early 2000’s at the Caloundra Aerodrome was Chopperline, a helicopter pilot training company which won contracts worldwide to train overseas (and local) helicopter pilots. In those days there was ‘we were here first’ attitude from Chopperline who appeared to pay scant respect to the residents of the new estate and maintained numerous touch n go exercises day by day making life for the new residents less than ideal.
Eventually Chopperline was sold to the current owners, Airways Aviation. For the new owners, helicopter pilot training, though an important section of their services, the level of training activity did not at any stage reach the same level as that of the previous owner.
Another major helicopter pilot training company on the ‘Coast’ is Becker Helicopters who operate out of Maroochydore. They are a major worldwide player in the industry and at times win contracts over from such illustrious enterprises as the US Airforce.
For years Becker Helicopters has sought Sunshine Coast Council to provide a satellite helicopter training facility, a section of land away from all residential areas where they could safely go and carry out their touch n go training circuits. Becker Helicopters use airports all along the SE Queensland Coast to conduct their training. They stretch as far north as Hervey Bay and inland to Toowoomba.
When the new Noosa Council came into being, they immediately cancelled Becker Helicopter’s access to Teewah Aerodrome. This meant Becker Helicopters needed a new venue. Becker Helicopters chose to target Caloundra Aerodrome and the surrounding residential communities for ongoing touch n go’s. This was a deliberate strategy to raise a public outcry and to pressure the authorities to act on a Satellite Training Facility. It worked!
Bellvista experienced up to 6 hours per day of mostly two helicopters continually overhead doing repeated touch n go’s up to seven days per week. There was a public outcry and a 1000+% increase in complaints to Sunshine Coast Airport Management. Regulations favour aircraft companies and Becker helicopters were never contravening any laws with their actions.
Local MP Mark McArdle came to the rescue and was instrumental in arranging a government owned piece of land as an ongoing Satellite Helicopter Training Facility. It seemed the arrangement was about to be signed into legislation when an election was called and the government was forced into caretaker mode. This meant no new agreements could be signed.
In the interim Stockland came to the rescue with a temporary site to be used. Any agreement to use this site ends in December 2017 when Stockland require the land for the ongoing Caloundra South Development.
With an ensuing change of government it, was ‘back to the drawing boards’ to renegotiate a new agreement for a permanent helicopter training site with the new government. Following two years of negotiations, Sunshine Coast Airport Management has been unable to reach an agreement on a suitable piece of land.
BeCA was actively discouraged by Sunshine Coast Airport Management from any involvement in negotiations.
Following two years of unsuccessful negotiations, the task of negotiating has now been handed over to another Sunshine Coast Airport Management member. BeCA has offered its services to use some of its political contacts but this offer has been declined on procedural grounds.
With another State Government Election looming and with Stockland’s needs to reclaim the current piece of land, BeCA has fears of a return to the ‘old days’ when once again our community was targeted by an unscrupulous operators, hell bent on getting their own way.
BeCA believes, that where possible, ALL helicopter training companies should use any new permanent facility.