MUSKOKA - District of Muskoka councillors have scrapped a lease agreement that would have seen an international flight school land at Muskoka Airport.
Ravi Virdi of Indo Canadian Academy Inc. pitched his company’s international flight school to District of Muskoka council on Oct. 22, touting it as a catalyst for job growth, education and tourism marketing for the region.
“Interest was shown that the level of international flight school that we would be bringing in is something that is needed in the vicinity of Muskoka,” said the Richmond Hill resident.
About two months ago, the district’s planning and economic development committee had approved the two-year lease that would have allowed the flight school to move to the airport. But after a closed session committee meeting earlier this month the committee rescinded the lease.
District council held a closed session at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 22, and when it came back into open session it supported the committee’s decision to rescind the lease, though no explanation was given in open session as to why.
District Chair John Klinck said he could not go into detail about what was discussed in closed session due to client-solicitor privilege, but said councillors made the right decision.
“Committee felt very strongly that it wanted to do some more due diligence,” said Klinck. “Council received that due diligence information and it was not wrong in making its determination to agree with committee. That’s really all I can say at this point.”
Flight students would have come from India, China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia. The flight school company has offices in many of those countries already.
Virdi came with several letters of intent and support for the school from various organizations, including Chinese and Indian airlines which would have been willing to interview the school’s graduates for jobs. He said the school is already fully operational and certified with Transport Canada.
Students would have spent about $50,000 each per year in the region on flight training, transportation, food, travel, entertainment and accommodation. The school planned to start with 15 students its first year.
The school also intended to purchase fuel from the airport for the five aircraft it wanted to house at the facility, which would have meant an additional $250,000 in fuel sales the first year, said Virdi. That amount would have nearly doubled by the second year.
The school’s use of the airport would have increased the number of flights per year from about 30,000 to about 50,000, he said.
“We would be doing about seven flights a day and would bring students for flight training,” said Virdi. “And in the evening we would use an airport classroom for grounds crew and ground training.”
He said the company had intended to build a hangar with its own funds and lease office space at the airport as well.
Job opportunities would have included four to five spots for local flight instructors as well as aircraft maintenance positions. If people from the region did not fill the instructor spots, the company intended to bring instructors from Toronto who would have relocated to Muskoka.
While council went into closed session to discuss the proposal, Virdi said his company chose Muskoka not only for the marketable esthetic appeal of the region, but also because of the airport facility and the availability for flight time.
Now that council has scrapped the lease, Virdi said the school will try its chances in Quebec instead.