COVID-19 may have clipped the wings on an already turbulent plan to establish a commercial flight link between Perth and Derby, but the Kimberley town’s leader is determined to finally secure the connection on the other side of the virus. A tender process for a 12-month trial of a twice-weekly passenger service to the town failed last year, after the Department of Transport deemed all airline submissions to be unviable. It followed the State Government committing $1 million to underwrite the flights in 2017 and a multimillion-dollar refurbishment of the Derby Airport, which has not had one commercial arrival from Perth since 2016. At the time, Shire of Derby-West Kimberley president Geoff Haerewa said the council would enter the marketplace itself and speak directly with airlines to lock in the service. He told the Broome Advertiser last week that the Shire had pushed forward with a number of discussions before the virus hit the country. “We were conversing with Virgin, Qantas and Air North and had allocated money in the budget to do that,” he said. “As soon as COVID-19 started it all dropped off, which was the case with many ports around the country, however we are going to re-spark those talks because these airlines may be re-thinking how they are going to do things and Derby could be part of that discussion.” Mr Haerewa said establishing the link with Perth was still the number one priority and it had worked out in the town’s favour that the 12-month trial had not already gone ahead. “In hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise that the tender process fell through, because if our 12-month trial was running and then the virus hit, it would have been a disaster,” he said. Mr Haerewa said he had also been in discussions with intraregional carrier Aviair to look at bringing in flights between Broome and Derby. He said a large focus would be on encouraging new tourism ventures — particularly indigenous tours — which would ramp up the town’s case for more connectivity. “We were looking at everything that was on the table and will continue to do so,” he said. The Shire is still able to access the State Government’s $1 million.