The first trial flight from Brisbane West (Toowoomba) Wellcamp Airport left on Monday 23rd November bound for Hong Kong, carrying a range of produce, including Calypso and R2E2 mangoes. Other produce included frozen and chilled beef, nuts, organic chicken, and lettuce.
The man who developed Australia’s largest private airport says he wants to see freighters carrying Queensland produce direct to Asia every day.
John Wagner said watching the flight leave marked a significant step forward for the $200 million facility.
“It’s going to be a fantastic day for Toowoomba, for our region, for our state, and the nation, to be able to use this infrastructure to take fresh produce from the Darling Downs and outlying regions up to Asia to feed half the world’s population,” Mr Wagner said.
He said the flight could pave the way for a regular freight service.
“It’s a trial flight to make sure all the systems are in place,” he said.
“We’re still in discussions with the airlines, but I would be relatively hopeful that by the end of the first quarter next year, we’ll have a scheduled service out of Wellcamp.
“That could be twice a week, that could be three times a week, it could be more than that...depends on how the market goes.
“If I look forward for the next 12 to 18 months, what I see is our passenger numbers tripling in size.
“What we really see, and the message that we’re getting very loud and clear from China in particular, but even some of the other Asian countries, is they want fresh produce from this region.
“I think it’s not unrealistic to think within 12 months we could have a freighter a day running out of Wellcamp.”
Ben Lyons lived in China for 18 years, and is now the chief executive officer of economic development group Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise. He said the flight was significant, and could see Australian produce delivered to customers in China within days of being ordered.
“We’re more than happy, this is a big statement,” he said.
“We’re lucky that this e-commerce or mobile payment commerce of buying perishables online in mainland China is a very recent phenomenon but a very big one.
“We’re obviously targeting a niche, but it’s a big niche when you’re talking about the Chinese market.”
Included on the maiden international flight to Hong Kong were Calypso mangoes from the Harvest Company and R2E2 mangoes from Bowen growers Dale Williams and Ben Martin.