Echuca airport has just become just the third airport on the Murray River to serve as a refuelling hub for Jet A1 fuel in emergency situations.By Zach Hope
Physically, at least, Echuca aerodrome’s new fuelling station does not appear particularly special.
It is a no frills white bowser, a familiar looking pump system and a spool for the pump line.
Housing it all is a rudimentary shelter shed, behind which stands a large white tank.
But in reality, it is far from simple, and certainly not cheap.
Stored in the ‘double-skinned’ tank, imported from New Zealand because Australia does not produce such a structure, is Jet A1 fuel, and Echuca Aero Club members reckon it could help change the entire fabric of the region.
The kerosene-based fuel is now used in most commercial aviation and in aircraft such air ambulances, the police airwing, most helicopters and jets.
This means Echuca, while still stocking the more traditional Avgas, has become just the third airport on the Murray River, behind Mildura and Albury, that can serve as a refuelling hub in emergency situations.
Previously, the nearest centres with Jet A1 were Bendigo and Mangalore.
Aero club members say it will provide more flexibility for aircraft on life and property saving missions. For example, helicopters fighting local fires can quickly refuel and return to the job at hand.
They also believe it will make Echuca more accessible to business leaders, bankers, private aircraft and travelling politicians, meaning Echuca will, quite literally, be put on the map.
It could even be the first step to attracting an airline.
‘‘If we ever got a regional airline coming to Echuca, it would be paramount to have Jet A1,’’ Echuca Aero Club vice president Rob Hosking said.
‘‘There certainly has been some talk about it. We can but dream.’’
The project cost more than $100,000 — $30,000 just to fill the tank — and took nearly 18 months of planning and negotiating permits.
‘‘It’s a pretty big achievement,’’ club president Peter Arnold said.
‘‘We saw the need for it and we think it’s been a good move.’’
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