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WA aviation providers accuse state of favouring rival

written by Adam Thorn | April 28, 2020

Shoal Air's Piper PA31 (ShoalAir)
Shoal Air’s Piper PA31 (ShoalAir)

Four local aviation providers in the north of WA have written to the state government accusing it of favouring rival Aviair for government charter work during the coronavirus crisis.

Shoal Air, Broome Aviation, North West Bush Pilots and Clark Butson said the remainder of the local industry has been overlooked.

Aviair, in response, has told Australian Aviation the business has received no additional work from the government since the pandemic took hold.

The four operators, however, estimated their government work has reduced by around 70 per cent.

Their letter to WA reads, “In the past two weeks in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of WA we have seen virtually all government ad-hoc air charter work awarded to a single air operator – Aviair


“These flights/services have been engaged to deploy emergency services staff and equipment (across several portfolios) to remote towns and communities in response to COVID-19 outbreaks and precautions.

“We see large and expensive turboprop aircraft from Aviair engaged around the clock to move small numbers of personnel and equipment.

“The remainder of the aviation industry in the north has been largely overlooked and ignored by the relevant agencies.

“Government has effectively shut down all other flight operations, and in preferencing just Aviair for all essential services charter work, will extinguish all general aviation competition and viability in the region.

“The imminent collapse of competitive air operations in our region will have very far-reaching and monopolistic consequences, and severely impede the region’s recovery when that time comes.”

Aviair, however, told Australian Aviation in a statement, “In a time of need, Aviair has been well prepared with both assets and COVID-19 specific protocols to provide essential services for both government and corporate clients. These services have been undertaken for government on the basis of pre-existing contracts which Aviair obtained under a competitive tender process based on capability, price, and demonstrated performance.

“Aviair is unaware of any additional ad-hoc services that have recently been performed out of contract to government, as incorrectly suggested in the communique.”

Since the letter was initially sent, on 14 April, two initial signatories, King Leopold Air and Kimberley Air, have removed their names from the statement.

Broome Aviation managing director Brenton Hanson said, “What is even more puzzling is that in this extraordinary times the state government is supporting a company that is 80 per cent eastern states owned using aircraft largely leased from eastern states interests while the same exact aircraft owned and operated by long-term Kimberley operators remain grounded and languishing at various hubs around the north west.”

Australian Aviation has reached out to the WA government for comment.

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