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.”
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.
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”.
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.”