UPDATE OCTOBER 30: The Department of Defence has re-affirmed its opposition to the construction of a jet-capable airport at Wellcamp Downs on the grounds it could seriously jeopardise army aviation training at Oakey.
The proposed project, to be privately funded by prominent Toowoomba business Wagners, is awaiting final approval from Toowoomba Regional Council.
If given the green light from council, and subsequently the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the first planes could be landing on the runway in the first half of 2014.
Its distance from the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, roughly 15km away, has become a bone of contention between Wagners and Defence.
"Army aviation bases are structured to allow low level military aircraft to train without restrictions," a Defence spokesman said.
"The proposed project has the potential to significantly impact on army aviation training and operational capability due to the proximity to restricted airspace.
"There are also considerable safety concerns with regards to air traffic control procedures."
When pressed on the possibility of the Oakey airport sharing its runway with commercial airlines, the department said it was not out of the question but could give no concrete solutions.
"Civil access to restricted military airspace is currently allowed whenever possible, however due to the dynamic and frequent nature of military flight operations, it is difficult to predict when this access might be granted," the spokesman said.
UPDATE OCTOBER 24:
REPORTS of the Department of Defence's resistance to a privately-funded jet airport on the city's doorstep have sparked debate within the Toowoomba community.
Defence officials have failed to answer requests for information about why there is opposition to the proposed Wagners project in Wellcamp Downs.
Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce president Andrew Wielandt made the business community's opinion very clear.
"The Toowoomba Airport only had about 13,000 passengers last year," he said.
"Compare that to Maroochydore - a smaller region - which had 130,000 passengers.
"And we've only got 10% of the passenger movement of the Sunshine Coast.
"Is that what we aspire to?"
The Defence debate has been behind closed doors, centring on issues with shared air space at the Oakey Airport and the Amberley RAAF Base.
The new airport would force them to amend their flight management systems, but Mr Wielandt said it was an unfortunate necessity.
"If you've got someone like Wagners willing to put their hand in the pocket, we should be doing everything possible to support them," he said.
"The previous and current councils should be congratulated for seeing through the extension of the airport runway, but it is not the long-term solution.
"We're a city of 120,000 people, projected to grow to something like 250,000 by 2031.
"But we have an airport with only 13,000 passengers a year.
"We can't afford to pass up this opportunity."
Comments from our online readers:
- There is currently one commercial service to Sydney each day. One. This may go to 2-3 if Wagners proposal goes ahead. Wagners are not planning to replicate Heathrow - Lucifer, Newtown
- The sky is not the limit. This is a smart investment which will help every one of us to move forward. - Cron1, Toowoomba City
- As someone who often travels on business and is forced to drive 2 hrs to Brisbane before catching a flight to my destination, I can tell you that Toowoomba is being held back by not having a suitable airport that operates flights to destinations where you can arrive before lunchtime - Alq9853, Kearneys Spring
- The Defence Force needs to take a little Wagners advice and HARDEN UP - Such-is-Life_83, Darling Heights
- So Toowoomba is the second largest inland city after Canberra in the whole of Australia, even larger than some of the coastal cities who do have their own major airports, and we have no adequate airport, no passenger rail service and no decent public transport system. I don't care who makes money from developing an airport as long as one is done and done properly - sherryhaines, Meringandan West
- Stop the nonsense and start using the Oakey Airport for what it was originally built. It was funded by the taxpayer, previously used by commercial aircraft, and there is absolutely no reason why it can't be again - KatteeC from Australia
THE Department of Defence has become the only major obstacle to Toowoomba finally getting the jet-capable airport it badly needs.
The Wagners-funded project at Wellcamp Downs has been widely supported as a means to drive the city towards its future as a vital regional transport centre.
They have been less than helpful... (but) this project is absolutely vital for our region
Issues have surfaced over shared air space with the Oakey Army Base and the RAAF Base in Amberley, but Wagners Global Services chairman John Wagner says the three operations can coexist.
"While council has been very supportive of the application, the same can't be said for the Department of Defence," he said.
"They have been less than helpful... (but) this project is absolutely vital for our region."
Member for Groom Ian Macfarlane said the issue was in the hands of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and subsequently Airservices Australia.
Wagners must apply to CASA for use of the airspace in a process completely separate to its council development application.
Should the Department of Defence work with Wagners to make the jet-capable airport happen?
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He said once that application was accepted, it would need to be approved by Airservices.
"This issue is far more complicated than was perhaps first suggested," he said.
"In terms of international flights coming into Wagners, they cut across air space being used by Amberley Base and all the Defence Force aircraft working there.
"It has got to be safe."
Mr Macfarlane was convinced the Wagners project would not pose a threat to nearby airports.
"It's going to be an enormous boost to the community," he said.
"I'm still confident we'll get it to happen, but it may be a process that takes some time.
"If the whole air operations map has to be rewritten for this area, it's not going to happen overnight."
Mr Wagner felt secure the project would not be compromised.
"We're just keen to get work under way," he said.
"It's going to be a substantial job creator and we're very keen to make it happen."
The Department of Defence was not available for comment despite continued requests.