Development of Whanganui’s flight school complex is in full swing, with June 1 set as D-day for completion.

That is the target date set by Phillip Bedford, chief executive of the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy (NZICPA) – formerly Flight Training Manawatu.

The academy will move to Whanganui from Feilding aerodrome once work at the airport is finished. Contractors have been selected, designs have been submitted, and already two former Whanganui students have enrolled.

Wells Wadsworth Construction will build the training facilities, classrooms and offices, while Loaders has been contracted to do driveways and car parking.

Mr Bedford said there was a major power cable to shift, but construction should start in March.

“The complex will deliberately be designed so people know they’ve come to the right place,” Mr Bedford said.

The school has 40 students completing the two-year training – 18 from New Zealand and 22 from India, Oman, Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

Mr Bedford said NZICPA had also been negotiating with China to expand student intake.

“Airlines are the fastest-growing industry in the world, so there is great potential to grow our school. Budget airlines are becoming more popular and China have a growing number.

“The plan is to cater to different markets, the China market seeks training with a university degree so that’s an area we are working towards.”

Mr Bedford said NZICPA also held the necessary Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) documents to conduct commercial air operations.

“We undertake a lot of aerial survey and photography, and charter and scenic passenger flights.”

He has been working with local high schools to promote the course as an “extra-curriculum course”.

Former Wanganui Collegiate School student Tom Matthews and former Whanganui High School student Adriaan Viljoen have joined the academy. NZICPA is looking for two more students and Mr Bedford said it would be a bonus if they were from Whanganui.

At Feilding the students’ living arrangements were based in Palmerston North and they arrived at aerodrome in their own transport. In Whanganui, international students will be accommodated in a set of flats originally built for polytechnic students called Dublin Apartments.

Students will be able to walk to central Whanganui, and transport to the airport will be provided for them.

“The flight school will be a great support to regional economic development and we plan to have an opening ceremony which we hope the prime minister will attend,” Mr Bedford said.