Noise-row church to be pilot school

Thulani Gqirana

ACHURCH in a trendy part of Port Elizabeth is to be converted into an international pilot training centre, the church pastor has announced. George Georgiou said Fathers House Family Church in Richmond Hill had officially been sold. Its asking price was R5-million.

The Stanley Street premises would become a pilot training facility, with equipment found nowhere else in Africa. Equipment would include two flight simulators to be provided in collaboration with a passenger plane manufacturer from Europe. “This will serve as a training centre for pilots from across Africa and around the world. It is our understanding that it is a first for South Africa on this scale and in terms of technological advancement. It is a great opportunity for our city,” Georgiou said.

One of the flight schools which will use the facility will be the 43 Air School, which has branches in Port Alfred, Bhisho and Lanseria.

The school’s chief executive, Attie Niemann, said the church building had been acquired by investors for a company called PTC Aviation (Pty) Ltd.

“The company will deliver high-end training to the aviation and airline industry [local and international] and will be staffed by highly experienced and specialised instructors and personnel.”

Niemann said the new centre would take young pilots from flight schools across the world and train them to be ready for work on airlines.

“This business will be a great asset to PE and the Eastern Cape and indeed South Africa as there is nothing like it on the African continent,” he said.

The centre would run its first courses by July. Niemann said the equipment would include “high-end Boeing and Airbus simulators with the latest technology and e-learning curriculums and technology backed by industry-leading instructors and personnel”.

Meanwhile, Georgiou said the church had received an offer for the building within days of it going on the market for R5-million.

He said the church had considered a number of factors before going through with the sale.

“One was the zoning of the property. At present, this allows for places of worship and educational institutions. Our attorneys did extensive ground work on this, and although a rezoning application was drafted, it was decided to sell the property under its present zoning.”

Residents were at loggerheads with the 600-seater church after it moved into the area three years ago. Complaints ranged from early morning drumbeats to parking shortages and to screaming youths and constant construction.

Because of its growth, the church decided to move to new 3000-seater premises in North End.

Its new home from March will be at a former builders’ trade depot in Paterson Road, North End.

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