We are extremely fortunate in Christchurch and Canterbury in that we have a balanced economy. Our economy is really a microcosm of the total New Zealand economy, we are not dependent on one particular sector but we have economic inputs right across the spectrum. That makes this economy stable and strong and able to weather downturns if one component of the economy should falter. We have seen that in the past and will see it in the future.
In amongst our economic mix there are some hidden gems - small operators that just get on with their business but who in total make an extraordinary valuable contribution to our social and economic matrix.
Christchurch has always been a center of pioneering and aviation. The city can trace its aviation heritage right back to Wigram which of course now proudly supports the Royal Airforce Museum of New Zealand and a unique display of airforce memorabilia of the highest standard. An organisation that ironically has flown under the horizon for many years is the Canterbury Aero Club.
The Canterbury Aero Club started at the Wigram Airfield 89 years ago and is currently located at Christchurch International Airport. Those of us that do a lot of travelling have probably noticed on take-off and landing the cluster of buildings on the southern side of the airport amongst which sits the Aero Club. The Canterbury Aero Club main facility is at West Melton where some of its fleet of 28 aircraft operate seven days a week, providing all levels of pilot training from a first flight experience through to full commercial pilot licensing. As one of the oldest clubs in New Zealand the Aero Club has made its mark in aviation globally with its international academy bringing students in from all corners of the world to be trained as commercial pilots. All of these students live amongst us in Christchurch and bring a vitality to this city and to the airport with their cultural diversity. Christchurch and Canterbury are blessed with empty skies, a variable terrain, extremely safe airports and generally good flying weather. All of these factors support an increasing capacity for flight training for locals and international customers.
At Christchurch International Airport the Harewood Aviation Park site is focused on commercial training and is unique in the world. Being able to offer training on an active international airport with all that offers from a busy controlled airspace and precision approaches, right through to flying in a way that accommodates the Airbus A380 when it is arriving or departing. It is my understanding that Christchurch International Airport is the only airport in the world with under a million people that has a daily Airbus A380 service that along with all the other aircraft movements provides a unique opportunity for training pilots.
The Canterbury Aero Club has great facilities which it uses not only for aircraft training, pilot education but also has an extremely well positioned lounge overlooking the runway and the aircraft movements of an international airport. Operators like the Canterbury Aero Club need to be recognized and cherished as an integral part of our multi-faceted economy. They are just another unique example of what we have on offer in our part of the world.