When Dennington resident Tony Laws heard a regular customer at the petrol station he worked at was spending hundreds to take her child to Melbourne for treatment, he vowed to bring a cheaper, faster travel service to the city.
Mr Laws has spent the past six years working to bring an air taxi service to Australia through his new start-up company V-Star Powered Lift.
He approached his business partners about setting up a regional travel service in south-west Victoria with Warrnambool as the hub.
The project is gaining momentum with Warrnambool City Council willing to support the proposed service by making infrastructure available to the company. If successful, about 10-15 powered lift vehicles could operate as an app-based charter service to the city of Melbourne, Avalon and Tullamarine by 2025.
If there is sufficient demand, part of the fleet is expected to be made available to emergency services with the goal of increasing accessibility and slashing travel time to Melbourne from the city to under 35 minutes.
The idea is anything but far-fetched for Mr Laws, who said he'd already secured 25 per cent of the first two years of one prototype plane production, with further options to lease or purchase an unspecified number of three other types of powered lift aircraft.
"These planes would be so beneficial for all the emergency services," he said.
"Anywhere we need to get people equipment quickly, far and fast - this is where these planes come in. I've been looking at TriFan 600 which is a really cool looking plane. It was originally a concept designed to compete with business jets and it's very fast reaching up to 630 kmh. That's the aircraft that can get you from Warrnambool to Melbourne in less than 25 minutes because it's quick and hybrid-electric."
While it's uncertain whether the TriFan 600 will feature in the proposed Warrnambool fleet initially, several similar models are expected to make an appearance.
Innovation is a key characteristic of the company for Mr Laws, who has observed changes within the air travel industry for more than four decades.
IN OTHER NEWS:
But it wasn't until he moved to south-west Victoria he saw the market opportunity.
"As an aviator, I've flown everywhere, including to the Arctic in the navy doing naval warfare to flying over the jungles of the Solomon Islands in Papua New Guinea and performing search and rescue in the North Sea," he said.
"Some of the most austere conditions you could probably face. That's given me a good ground in what I've finally decided to focus on, and about five or six years ago I decided I was done working for other companies and other people.
"My partner said I needed to get a job, so I started up Airmid as a training and consultancy company. We did a lot of work overseas and a fair bit of work in South Australia with surf lifesaving and state emergency services.
"That's where I met my two business partners with V-Star, the new company. I was driving up to Adelaide to do some work with surf lifesaving and I got about halfway and my colleague phoned me. He started talking to me about the AW609, the first commercial powered-lift aircraft.
"As he was talking, I thought: 'If I had an accident here, I'm going to be in trouble. If I'm badly hurt, it would take several hours to get me out'. That one journey gave me an epiphany.
"But I was using all my own money to fund Airmid so I actually worked at a servo in Dennington doing 10 hours a week. I'd never done anything like that in my life but I found it very humbling and met a lot of people.
"One of the main reasons I'm doing this is I met a lady who came in three times a week to top her car up. She said every week she needed to go three times to the Royal Children's Hospital with one of her children.
"I thought about that and when we had our inaugural board meeting and talked about what exactly we were selling, I mentioned this lady and said 'this is what we're doing'.
"Can you imagine how much this service would change this lady's life?"
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.