Ballina Byron Airport duo are up, up and away

TAKING OFF: Neil Weatherson and Graeme Gordon in the departure lounge at Ballina airport.
TAKING OFF: Neil Weatherson and Graeme Gordon in the departure lounge at Ballina airport. Graham Broadhead

NEIL Weatherson has already checked through security and taken off, while Graeme Gordon has his boarding pass and is ready to leave the departure gate.

Mr Weatherson, the former manager of Ballina Byron Gateway Airport has retired after seven years in the job, and Mr Gordon, the current airport operations manager, finishes up on Friday after 41 years' service with Ballina Shire Council.

Both men are looking forward to retirement, and plan to hop on a few more planes to travel rather than just watch the aircraft come and go.

In aviation terms, this is a go-around for Mr Weatherson who tried to retire once before.

He was lured to manage Ballina airport after finishing up as manager of the Sunshine Coast airport after 13 years.

He arrived at Ballina airport just after Jetstar withdrew its Melbourne to Ballina route, and passenger numbers were sitting on 271,000 per annum.

He did his bit at the controls to get the Jetstar Melbourne service reinstated, to attract a service from Newcastle, and follow that up with a new airline after the initial service was dropped.

He has banked more than $12m in grants from all levels of government, which has funded, among other things, upgrades and future expansion of the passenger terminal.

Revenue has hit new altitudes, sitting at $5.8m, double the $2.3m it was when he started, and jet services have taken off from 14 in June 2010 to 42 in January this year.

Mr Gordon has worked at the airport for 17 years, but began his career with the local council back in 1976. It is believed he currently is the longest-serving employee of Ballina Shire Council.

The draftsman was working for the Maritime Services Board in Sydney when he applied for a job with Tintenbar Shire Council.

He was only in the role for six months or so when Tintenbar Shire Council merged with Ballina Municipal Council to form Ballina Shire Council.

A change in technology for his trade also led to Mr Gordon looking for a change, and an internal restructure of the responsibility of the airport from the civil services department to the commercial services department opened up a new door for him.

"There are aircrafts coming in and out, people coming in and out, it's an exciting place to work.”

Topics:  ballina ballina byron gateway airport northern rivers business

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