This month Newcastle Airport farewelled one of their long-standing leaders, Ashley Kilroy, after 12 years’ service on Newcastle Airport Board.
Ashley’s first contact with the Airport was in the early 2000s when he was General Manager of the QantasLink operation. He joined the Board in 2004 following his departure from Qantas that same year and at a time of great transformation for the Airport.
“My initial impressions of Newcastle Airport back then was there was a lot of potential,” Ashley said.
The first step toward fulfilling said potential was realised when new low-cost carrier Virgin Blue commenced flights from Newcastle in November 2003 and Jetstar quickly followed, flying its very first flight from Newcastle to Melbourne on 25 May 2004.
“We were fortunate that Jetstar chose to fly out of Newcastle for its inaugural flight. That really signalled a change for Newcastle Airport,” he said.
An $8.25 million expansion in 2005 doubled the size of the terminal and car parks earned the Airport the prestigious Australian Airports Association ‘Regional Airport of the Year’ award.
Virgin Blue expanded its Newcastle network and soon was flying directly to Brisbane, Gold Coast and Melbourne. In 2006 Jetstar chose Newcastle as the location for its A320 heavy maintenance hangar.
“The significant reason the Airport took off was because of low cost carriers. That allowed us to develop and change into a big business,” Ashley said.
In 2004 there were 214,000 passengers choosing to fly into or out of Newcastle Airport, today that figure has hit a record 1.2 million.
“Newcastle Airport has a very effective Board of Directors and Management with excellent support from shareholding Councils,” Ashley said.
“The Board and Management always had an excellent relationship with Defence in Newcastle and Canberra, this is going from strength to strength.”
As Ashley reflected on his lengthy career with Newcastle Airport as one of collaboration and success.
“We’ve completed two major terminal expansions, we’ve now provided a return to our owners and I am also very proud of the fact we have maintained three airlines in a competitive market – that is testament to Newcastle Airport’s significance,” he said.
“It’s been a good time, we’ve have done a lot of things I am proud of, but none of the current successes would be possible without support from local government.”
Newcastle Airport CEO Peter Cock praised Ashley’s dedication and foresight, describing him as a man who was both well-liked and respected.
“Ashley was highly supportive of me as an incoming CEO and helped with the transition in leadership,” Peter said. “His aviation experience knows no bounds and he has been a source of great industry knowledge. He will be missed.”
The aviation stalwart originally enlisted for the Board position because he wanted to share his breadth of experience and help guide the Airport’s growth.
“I thought I could use that experience to contribute to running of the airport and realising its potential,” Ashley said. He has listed his time at the Airport as some of his best years.
“The board has renewed over the last two years and it has been a good transition. I feel I have contributed much in my time. It is sad to go, but it’s time to move on.”
But the future looks bright at Newcastle Airport, he said.
“In the next three years hopefully there will be two air carriers flying to NZ, domestically Adelaide, Perth and Cairns are all on the radar and more frequent flights to Melbourne and Brisbane, and the possibility of adding on an Asian destination would really be great.”
Image | Ashley Kilroy