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So far, so good but flight school up in the air over border issue

Gisborne-based Eagle Flight Training Limited has come through the Covid-19 crisis well so far, but director Brian Johns hopes to see New Zealand border restrictions lifted soon.

Eagle Flight, which operates at Gisborne Airport, primarily trains international students.

Its current intake is 27 students from six countries in various stages of training.

“We're going pretty well,” Mr Johns said. “We got through lockdown by running daily training sessions with the students in the confines of the homes they live in here in Gisborne.

“But we are seriously concerned about when the Government might lift the border restrictions for overseas students coming into the country.”

There were six students ready to come to New Zealand to join the flight programme at Eagle, and eight others due to finish military training in Vietnam in September.

“Most of the students currently in training are from Vietnam, but we also have students from Papua New Guinea, Samoa, India and Indonesia, and one New Zealander.”

The company has also trained students from Hong Kong.

“They come to join us for 14-day stays in the hope that they are able to fly solo in that time. Most achieve that goal,” said Mr Johns.

“Unfortunately we cannot get them into the country at this stage.

“The current border restrictions will not be a huge problem for our company in the short-to-medium term because it takes 15 to 18 months to complete our training programme,” Mr Johns said.

“Most of our current students will be with us for many months yet so we are covered for a while.

“But the longer-term situation is a serious concern unless the New Zealand border restrictions get lifted.”

One of the current crop of young pilots qualified yesterday for his commercial pilot licence.

“He was overjoyed and his parents even more so,” Mr Johns said.

The company began operations in Gisborne in late 2017 and it has proved a good training base since moving here from Ardmore in Auckland.

Eagle Flight Training operates five aircraft in its flight programme.

The fleet includes Diamond 20 and Diamond 40 single-engined trainers, and a twin-engined PA30 Piper Commanche.

FLYING HIGH: The Eagle Flight flying training school based at Gisborne Airport has come through the Covid crisis well so far. It has 27 young pilots in training. Flight instructor Naomi Aldisa is pictured with one of them — Tran Quang Anh, from Vietnam, who this week gained his commercial pilot licence. Picture by Liam Clayton