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