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Nine cities make proposed Qantas pilot academy shortlist

written by australianaviation.com.au | June 22, 2018

Qantas pilots. (Duncan Killick/Qantas)
Qantas pilots. (Duncan Killick/Qantas)

Nine regional locations across Australia are in contention to host Qantas’s proposed new pilot training academy.

Qantas announced the shortlist for its new flight school on Friday, which comprised three potential locations in New South Wales, two in Queensland and one in each in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

The full list is as follows:

  • Alice Springs, Northern Territory
  • Bendigo, Victoria
  • Busselton, Western Australia
  • Dubbo, New South Wales
  • Launceston, Tasmania
  • Mackay, Queensland
  • Tamworth, New South Wales
  • Toowoomba, Queensland
  • Wagga Wagga, New South Wales

Qantas Group pilot academy executive manager Wes Nobelius said the shortlist of nine was whittled down from an initial 60 possible locations in what was a difficult task.

“The way that communities have come together to develop some outstanding proposals has been fantastic, Nobelius said in a statement.


“From ideas around scholarships to a community photo shoot in Mackay and a video message from the children of Dubbo, we’ve been really impressed with the quality of responses and the level of support on offer.

“The applications from cities that we’ve seen through this process show regional cities have the capacity to help make Australia a regional hub for pilot training, and the potential benefit that could bring for local economies is huge.”

Qantas said the pilot academy management team would visit all nine candidates “in coming weeks”, with a final decision to be made some time between July and September.

Further, it was also in “separate discussions with several training providers”, with a formal tender process to be released in period ahead.

In February, Qantas announced plans to spend $20 million establish a new pilot training academy at an existing airfield in regional Australia with the capacity to train up to 500 pilots a year.

The school is scheduled to open its doors in 2019 and would be initially for direct entry cadets joining the Qantas Group, including Jetstar and QantasLink.

The academy would initially train about 100 pilots a year. However, looking further ahead, the company has previously indicated this could grow to 500 pilots a year on a fee for service basis depending on demand from other parts of the industry.

Qantas Second Officer Arika Maloney, RMIT Aviation Student Anna Garliss, Griffith Aviation Student Kate Richards, and QantasLink First Officer Nicholas Bevis in front of a Qantas Q300 turboprop. (Mark Sherborne/Qantas)
Qantas Second Officer Arika Maloney, RMIT Aviation Student Anna Garliss, Griffith Aviation Student Kate Richards, and QantasLink First Officer Nicholas Bevis in front of a Qantas Q300 turboprop. (Mark Sherborne/Qantas)

Qantas Group Pilot Academy students, typically expected to be high school and university graduates with “strong academic performance”, would undergo 18 months of classroom, flight and simulator training. They would then “receive further training specific to the type of aircraft they will be flying before entering service as a First Officer on turboprop aircraft, sitting next to an experienced captain,” Qantas has said previously.

While it currently has no location or specific opening date beyond some time in 2019, Qantas said there had already been 14,000 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 14,000 expressions of interest, about 16 per cent were from women.

Tamworth has put itself forward as a potential site for the Qantas Group Pilot Academy. (Tamworth Regional Airport)
Tamworth has put itself forward as a potential site for the Qantas Group Pilot Academy. (Tamworth Regional Airport)
Mackay Airport hopes to land the Qantas pilot academy. (Mackay Airport)
Mackay Airport hopes to land the Qantas pilot academy. (Mackay Airport)

Qantas said in May the potential sites needed to meet 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.

Qantas said More than one regional site could train Qantas pilots

While Qantas has previously spoken of having a single site for its pilot school, Nobelius said the idea of a second academy was being considered.

“We think there could be enough demand from the broader industry for us to train up to 500 pilots a year, and to do that we’re likely to need two separate academies because of the practical realities of trying to do that much training in a single location,” Nobelius said.

“Training on this scale represents a commercial opportunity for Qantas but it’s also about contributing to a talent pipeline that we rely on for more senior pilots down the track.

“These graduates might fly for other airlines, join the defence force or be part of services like the Royal Flying Doctors.”

Boeing’s 2017-2036 Pilot and Technician Outlook, published in July, showed there was a need for 637,000 new commercial airline pilots. The Asia Pacific would comprise the largest source of demand with 40 per cent of new pilots to be recruited in the region between now and 2036.

Boeing's 2017-2036 outlook for pilots by region. (Boeing)
Boeing’s 2017-2036 outlook for pilots by region. (Boeing)

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

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Comments (27)

  • KFB


    Sad that Mildura didn’t make the list. But congrats to those other places! But seriously, BENDIGO over Mildura? Qantas doesn’t even fly there!

  • James


    Interesting to see who gets it. I would have thought the proximity of an ILS would be important also.

  • Ben


    Only three of those have an ILS at home base.

    You’d think Tamworth would have to be almost a certainty given BFTS’ imminent relocation to East Sale. Towered and with BTFS gone plenty of room and slots to play with.

  • Peter


    What odds will someone give me that it will be Tamworth?

  • Lechuga


    Bendigo would be interesting, literally has nothing at the moment. Would be a great coup.

    • Hilton


      Bendigo has s redeveloped airport including a new runway and lighting etc. It is close enough to 3 airports in Melbournd for training in approaches etc..the city has education facilities and excellent transport to Melbourne. It is a large pleasant city to live in with many regional airports in easy reach.

  • Michael Pearce


    Mackay, surly offers the best balance of facilities, life style and weather.

  • Ben II


    I would think Tamworth would have to be the front runner as it’s the regional centre closest to their home base of Sydney with an ILS.

    @KFB while I agree with you that Mildura is likely a more suitable airport than Bendigo, I don’t think it matters that they don’t fly there. It’s the suitability of the actual airport that counts. I believe Bathurst and Orange also put bids in, they don’t fly there either. They didn’t make the shortlist but they make sense as they’re regional airports close to Sydney. Although without an ILS. They can be prone to fog too. Although I would think that might add an interesting dimension to the training environment.

    • KFB



      You make a point.

  • James


    @ Ben

    Yeah I reckon they’ll get it. It’s actually 4 with an ILS. Wagga, Launy, Alice and Tamworth.

  • Deano969


    Wagga bzzzz REX home base
    Alice bzzzzz too isolated
    Launceston perhaps
    My money is on Tamworth

  • Sam


    I doubt Launceston would meet the 300 days per year of VFR weather conditions. Only really leaves Tamworth.

  • reeves35


    Realistically, QF are trying to play each of these locations off against each other for financial incentives. All of them already tick the box for base requirements. QF are known to try to milk payroll tax incentives etc. It is the reason the A330 maintenance base ended up in BNE. There is nothing wrong with incentives, of course, but it is a bit disingenuous to not mention them in the selection criteria.

  • hadf


    Dean, why would it matter that REX is already at Wagga? I’ve been there recently. Plenty of space left from what I saw.

    Agree on Alice though. Who’d want to go there? Probably the cheapest land though.

  • Samantha


    Not sure why Mackay was even considered, a boring city with little potential.

  • James


    @ Samantha

    Because it was an exercise in PR. And Mackay being one of the few on the list that are not run by the local council are good at it. I’d venture to say Dubbo or Wagga may be more boring than Mackay. Airlie Beach is only an hour or so north. Never heard that place described as boring…

    Logistically and for the criteria, I would have thought Rocky would have been in a much better position than Mackay. Due to the bigger Uni, easily 300 days of clear weather and the Gladstone ILS being only 50 nm away. But obviously their proposal was no where near as fancy as Mackay! Lol.

    I agree with most though. Tamworth would make more sense than anywhere. Not only for the facilities, but their ATC. I remember taxing their for Coffs a while back and listening to the controller juggle about 5 “Rollers” that we’re in the air and doing it so bloody well. They are well used to a busy lighties environment.

  • Ray


    What a joke! Qantas has been the main destroyer of pilot careers in Australia over the last 15 years. Their pursuit of lower wages and conditions for pilots across all their businesses has probably been the number one reason that talented young people have made the choice to pursue alternative career paths.

  • Jack abernethy


    As someone who had significant involvement in the selection of Tamworth in the 1990’s and the provision of the ILS, I hope that the Qantas opts for this location.

  • Peter


    Go Dubbo.
    Excellent airport and facs .Good year round weather. Great location and city.

  • James


    The criteria are well worth a read and may be challenging for all but a very few based on total scope.
    If this is a genuine process…
    Including the accommodation and supporting educational aspects; if not just livability & accessibility of the local area.
    Lonnie weather wise easily satisfies the criteria based on historic data and delivers complex airspace caterogries; (a criterion) not to mention a full suite of instrument approaches, SIDS STARS and BARA RNAV approaches for advanced training.
    Also a Cat 7 ARRFS to compliment the Tower
    Minimum four Tas aerodromes within 20 minutes flying all with sealed runways and taxiways of the specifications mandated and varied terrain to add interest and challenge for travel and circuit training. There is a myriad of options for flying training and minimal flying time to Sydney should that be in anyway part of the consideration. (Not a criteria or relevant)
    A QF group serviced port. Direct RPT jet connections to BNE, MEL and SYD.
    Wouldn’t bet against Tamworth.
    Agree with all the not so complimentary comments about how Qantas conducts business.
    No port will win without a significant infrastructure spend that Q won’t want to fully fund.
    Be careful what you wish for…

  • Aida Saccardo


    Interestingly the five criteria didn’t include an assessment of the impact of these training flights on local homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and aged care centres. Training flights are very different to commercial airline flights as far as noise is concerned. They fly lower in continuous circuits sometimes of many per hour with high noise levels that can have a shocking affect on people living and working in the area if they are flying overhead.. Also training planes fly using AvGas which has some lead in the fuel and they fly at lower heights. if it is cloudy the noise echoes of the clouds intensifying the noise. It is like a living hell. While I appreciate the economic benefits, legislation should be amended or modified to protect people living and working in the environment and also to control flying hours which at present can run from early morning to 11pm in the evening without respite. The more training pilots the greater the intensity of this effect on people’s lives. Think twice and make provision before the flight school is established.

  • Its really a profiteering land grab near growing desirable cities, ‘harvesting’ to flog your amenity & future wealth.
    Wanna really know what relentless foreign fly training racket is?

  • Peter


    Interesting no one mentions WA and Busselton, The City of Busselton and WA Govt have just ploughed millions in getting airport up to spec to handle up to A330 size aircraft
    Several Asisn airlines and Singapore airforce utilise the relatively spacious airspace to conduct training schools. Plus the good weather. Interesting to watch

  • Gavin


    What types of aircraft would the training pilots use? We live in Tamworth. Last thing we need is more noise!

  • Carmel


    Toowoomba is such an aspirational City with a lot of growth and infrastructure going in. It has an International and domestic airport built privately which is a fantastic NEW/FRESH facility. The Garden City is in the top 5 most liveable cities in Australia, spoilt for choice for schools, shopping centres and facilities. Plus it is 1 1/2 hours from Brisbane!

  • Paul Blackshaw


    Launceston meets all requurements. Some bad weather is exactly what future airline pilots need. Eight eighths blue sky is no way to train someone properly.

  • Helen


    I am really hoping that Mackay will make it. They would certainly have the full support of the community.

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