THE Nationals have pledged $2.57 million from the Federal Government to upgrade Cohuna Airport.
The funding will enable extension of the sealed runway and facilities for helicopters and the capacity to host an international training academy for pilots.
The project has been driven by Cohuna Aviation Club and local donors have provided $130,000 to allow this to be a privately co-funded application.
The funding pledge will be jointly today by the Nationals candidate for Mallee, Anne Webster and the Nationals' Victorian leader, Peter Walsh.
An earlier proposal for upgrading the aerodrome to enable establishment of an international pilot academy failed to gain support from Gannawarra Shire Council.
"This is the game-changer we know our town needs," Cohuna Aviation Club president, Andrew Gibbs, who is the project lobbyist and project team leader, said.
Mr Gibbs said that discussions began in 2013 and the recent visit by the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack had revived the project.
"The (aviation club) board want to thank both he and Dr Webster for getting it to us."
Mr Gibbs said that the aerodrome upgrade will ensure it meets the needs of the local district.
Mr McCormack said the upgrade will enable emergency service aircraft to be able to better protect the local community.
"Firefighting aircraft will also be able to use Cohuna as a designated fire attack location for fire bombing aircraft, he said.
Mr McCormack said regional airports provide vital links for communities to access services, job opportunities and domestic and international markets.
"We want more people – especially families and small businesses – moving to and staying in the regions, and better connectivity through airports is a vital part of that plan," he said.
The works, which will be part of the new Regional Aviation Fund announced in May, will include 1300 metre x 30 metre runway, pilot-activated approach lighting, R-Nav GPS landing protocols and a much tougher surface to increase the runway's load bearing capacity.
Mr Gibbs said that Cohuna would become one of the more sophisticated airports in our north, providing air services with a certified alternate to Mildura and Albury should they have need to vector a larger aircraft to an alternate strip.
Other features will include both Jet A1 and AvGas fuelling terminals with 40,000 litres on call. The allied aviation terminal comes with a rest zone for Air Ambulance Victoria crew, rooms for the aviation club and a ready to lease classroom facility for an international flying school in the future.
The plans include a heliport and space for up to two jets and 10 extra single / twin engine training aircraft facilities which supports the emergency helicopter services to the hospital, providing more options at lower altitude with fog.
Dr Webster said that upgrading the airport would open opportunities to attract businesses, such as flying schools to the region, increase tourism and ensure that the local community is better equipped to deal with medical emergencies and natural disasters.
"Local community organisations have already shown interest in using the multi-purpose terminal and it is exciting to see the potential this project will bring," she said.