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Qantas fires the starting gun on pilot training location

written by | May 11, 2018

Qantas says more than 40 regional councils have put their hands up to be the site of the airline group’s planned new pilot training academy.
To be called the Qantas Group Pilot Academy, Qantas said in February it would invest $20 million to set up the school at an existing airfield in regional Australia in partnership with an existing training provider.
The doors are expected to open in 2019 with the capacity to train 100 pilots a year for the Qantas group of airlines. Further down the track, the school could expand to 500 pilots a year on a fee for service basis.
On Friday, Qantas said it would begin accepting submissions from regional cities and local and state governments keen to have the academy located in their part of the world.
It promises to be a crowded field.
Since February’s announcement, scores of regional councils have been eager to talk up their credentials for hosting such a facility.
In February, Tamworth mayor Col Murray told the Northern Daily Leader the city’s airport would be an ideal location for the proposed Qantas academy.
“We’ll probably be one of the front runners in the considerations,” Cr Murray told the newspaper.
“We’ve got some great attributes going for us – parallel runways, top-of-line landing instrument system, abundant airspace and development approval to extend the accommodation at the existing training facility. It would be sensational for us to get this and we’ve already begun lobbying for it.”

Tamworth has put itself forward as a potential site for the Qantas Group Pilot Academy. (Tamworth Regional Airport)

CAE Oxford Aviation Academy conducts commercial pilot training in Tamworth, having leased part of BAE Systems Australia’s facilities in November 2017.
BAE Systems has operated the ADF’s Basic Flying Training School (BFTS) at Tamworth since 1999. However under Project AIR 5428 initial pilot training for all three arms of the Defence Force is being relocated to RAAF Base East Sale.
Meanwhile, there is also interest north of the Tweed, with Mackay saying in February it too planned to bid for the pilot training academy.
Mackay Airport general manager Rob Porter told the Daily Mercury the airport’s owner North Queensland Airports had given the green light to try to land the project.
“Mackay boasts a first class university in CQU, there’s a good range of accommodation and hospitality providers and the airport offers a blend of up to date facilities and uncongested airspace,” Porter told the newspaper. “As well as all that Mackay is, as we all know, a great place to live.”
“We are buying into the process, the bidding process.
“We will map out a plan and put together our pitch to go in front of Qantas.”
There have also been public comments from various councils across all states and territories, such as Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, Cairns and Rockhampton in Queensland, as well as sites in South Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia.
Mackay Airport hopes to land the Qantas pilot academy. (Mackay Airport)

Qantas Group Pilot Academy executive manager Wes Nobelius said there had already been some “very positive discussions” with governments and state leaders.
“We’re really pleased with the response we’ve had from local communities,” Nobelius said in a statement on Friday.
“More than 40 regional cities have indicated they’ll be making a bid to be home to the Academy. We’ve even had one council posting a video on social media featuring its residents and all the city has to offer.
“The process will be very competitive and although there can only be one academy, we’re encouraging every region to put their best case forward.”
The closing date for submissions is June 8, Qantas said. A shortlist will be made public before the site of the proposed pilot training academy is announced in the third quarter of calendar 2018.
Qantas said the candidates would be assessed on five main criteria:

  • Airport infrastructure – asphalt runway and taxiways with minimum runway length of 1,300m, capability of full lighting for night and reduced-visibility operations and fuel tanker refuelling. Hangars and covered facilities to accommodate maintenance and parking for up to 30 aircraft with the ability to grow to more than 50 aircraft.
  • Environment – weather conditions to allow for a minimum of 300 days per year suitable for flying, based on historical averages.
  • Airspace – access to a mix of controlled and uncontrolled airspace. An airport with a control tower is preferred.
  • Teaching facilities – high-tech student classrooms and space for large group briefings, full wi-fi and IT capability, and facilities to accommodate flight training simulators.
  • Student accommodation – contemporary private rooms, communal lounge areas and cafeteria to create a supportive learning environment, visitor accommodation, access to medical facilities and public transport.

While it currently has no location or specific opening date beyond some time in 2019, Qantas said there had already been 12,500 people who have registered their interest in the pilot training academy via the airline group’s website, or, in a least one instance, in person, when an aspiring pilot handed their application to Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce on board the inaugural QF9 flight from Perth to London Heathrow.
Of the 12,500 expressions of interest, Qantas said 15 per cent of those were women.
“The proportion of women who have registered their interest is also significant for a profession that currently has a global average of three per cent female representation and puts us on track to reach our goal under the Nancy Bird Walton initiative to reach at least 40 per cent women in our pilot intakes in ten years’ time,” Nobelius said.
“We look forward to welcoming the first students to our Academy next year, to be trained by some of the world’s best pilots, to become some of the world’s best pilots.”
Qantas said the academy was expected to employ 40 people in training and support roles.

VIDEO: Qantas highlights its presence in regional Australia in a video on its YouTube channel.

Qantas talks up its regional role

Separately, a Deloitte Access Economics study commissioned by Qantas and published on Friday has found the airline group supported 5,633 jobs and $1.6 billion in total value add in 2016/17.
This represented a total economic contribution of 0.3 per cent of gross regional product in regional Australia.
“The Qantas Group operations in regional Australia directly contributes $884 million in value added and indirectly contributes an additional $706 million in value added,” the report said.
“The Qantas Group directly provides 1,034 jobs in regional Australia and indirectly supports an additional 4,599 jobs in upstream industries such as catering and airport support staff.”
Meanwhile, the Deloitte Access Economics report said “facilitated tourism activity by the Qantas Group was estimated to contribute 36,477 jobs and $3,709 million in value added to regional Australia in 2016/17”.

A Qantas fact sheet on the airline's presence in regional Australia. (Qantas)
A Qantas fact sheet on the airline’s presence in regional Australia. (Qantas)

Qantas noted it spent $450 million with about 1,200 suppliers based in regional Australia, ranging from sourcing fresh barramundi on the north coast of Western Australia, beef from country New South Wales or having its aircraft painted by a family-owned business in Townsville.
“Qantas was founded in outback Queensland almost one hundred years ago, and since then we’ve been partnering with small and big businesses right across regional Australia,” QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said in a statement.
“We encourage travellers in our own backyard and around the world to spend more time exploring our extensive regional network and drive the tourism that is so vital to the local economies of towns and regional areas.”


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  • Paul Brisbane


    Gladstone, airport upgraded when the LNG plants were being built and cheap as chips to live now. Great place to live

  • D bell


    The business case for Tamworth is a no brainer. I am confident that T amworth will put forward a strong factural non emotional case. Sure many other towns could say “pick us”, but Tamworth has the maturity to support the infrastructure that is in place. I hope both the three regional state members and barnaby get together and run a collective supportive campaign.

  • James


    @ Paul
    I think Rocky would better with the tower there and plenty of land to build. But I agree re Gladstone with its ILS. Only 50 or so miles to Rocky.
    I agree with D bell. But apart from the infrastructure (ie accomodation etc) in place the QLD airports have everything else.
    It’ll all come down to the dollars.

  • Lechuga


    Hmm why not Avalon? It has no serious use at the moment, long runway, control tower, about to be upgraded to have international flights and is in Melbourne’s far west but right near Geelong also. It has pretty much everything they need for now.

  • Paul


    300 flying days a year? Sounds like Mareeba! Short distance to an international airport (Cairns), mixture of controlled/uncontrolled airspace, great place for outback VFR & IFR flying.

  • Greg Staron


    Just curious if Hastings Council (Port Macquarie) would be interested in this business adventure?

  • Dick Pearson


    As long as the bastards don’t come to Kempsey – we have just aboit got rid of the AIAC mob and residents don’t need to go through this again.

  • James


    @ Dick Pearson
    Good on ya Dick. You tell em mate

  • Peter


    Word in the parliamentary dining room last week and Aussie’s cafe is that Tamworth has got the gig; which probably means it will end up in Launceston. Government incentives include the obvious infrastructure already there but an extension to the maintenance hangers.

  • Curious


    Toowoomba West may be an option. Anything they are missing would be built at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time.

  • James


    @ Curious
    I agree. It’s a ripper little spot. The only thing is the proximity of an ILS. Pretty sure neither BN or CG are keen on lighties constantly rolling down their approaches for training.
    I think that is one of the reasons Tamworth will more than likely get the nod. It’s badicalky turn key for them.

  • Kim


    South Australia has the least number of Qantas FTE’s (including Tas & NT) so maybe a site in SA would be a blessing. Woomera would be great with no many adverse weather days and plenty of infrastructure. How long since ADL saw a QF International Flight? Please give something back to this State, Mr Joyce.

  • Lindsay Danes


    Its all a big [email protected]@K fest to be honest. They expect this to infrastructure to be pre existing or built for them. Sure how about the smaller regional towns invest millions into something that will probably only be a 5 year contract and STILL may not even go ahead! Qantas have pulled a fast one before I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again. Not to mention they will probably want the sim purchased for them too! $$$$$$$$

  • Craig


    Although not mentioned in this article which as a proud Tasmanian is very annoying, Wynyard/Devonport is most interested and has strong case.

  • James


    @ Craig
    What’s their case?

  • Andy


    I cant stand when large companies play off local or state governments against each other so that they can get stuff for free. You want a new training facility Qantas – build it and pay for it yourself.

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