News -

New Wagga based business gives an aviation icon a new look

At a time when many businesses are folding, the newly opened Wagga company ‘Douglas Aerospace’ is flying high.

It’s expanding, employing 25 locals, and drawing iconic air medical retrieval clients like CareFlight Group Queensland* to its hangar in the process.

“CareFlight has flown more than twelve hundred kilometres from Queensland to be repainted here, so we must be doing something right,” CEO and Founder Doug Clarke said.

CareFlight Group Queensland air ambulance First Officer Adam Minutello, who comes from nearby Tumbarumba and flew the Learjet 45 in today, agrees.

“As a not-for-profit rescue service we prize safety, performance and value for money,” he said.

Sixty-one years ‘young’ Doug Clarke is himself an aviation institution.

He founded his company back in 1979 after a simple question.

“Someone rang me and asked ‘Have you ever painted an aeroplane?’” he said.

“I said ‘No, but I could do it.’”

He did, recognising a business opportunity in the process.

“I found that there was a big gap in the market as back in those days most planes were coming into the country new. It was the ones that came in 20 or 30 years earlier that needed refurbishment (painting).”

After a stint in retirement, ‘yeah I retired but didn’t like it’, he returned to the industry.

He consolidated his company from four bases across Australia, to this new facility in Wagga.

“It took three years to build the base and it’s been open three months,” he said.

“We’re now building another one so in about 12 months or so we’ll have 60 locals working for us.”

A pilot for 27 years, Doug has a love of the aviation industry that goes beyond the four walls of his business at Wagga Airport.

The city of Wagga Wagga has also become much more than just a base to work from.

“It’s a cliché, but it’s true the people are lovely and the restaurants and pubs are wonderful. We would spend four nights a week out we enjoy it so much.”

This week (September 3) he’ll begin the 19 day transformation of the CareFlight Queensland air ambulance from grey to white as the organisation streamlines its colours.

“It’s quite an involved process stripping back the old paint, protecting the metal with anti-corrosive paint and then finely layering paint onto the bare bones,” he said.

CareFlight Group Queensland is a new customer for Douglas Aerospace, but an air medical retrieval service that is three decades old.

The not-for-profit organisation has a fleet of two air ambulance Learjets, but is best known for its iconic RACQ CareFlight Rescue community helicopters servicing 3.7 million residents across 24 shires in Queensland, and northern New South Wales.

The helicopters fly out of four Queensland bases on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Bundaberg and Toowoomba.

CareFlight's air ambulance is based on the Gold Coast and Townsville  and services Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region.