Regional Express (Rex) has bought a flight training school based in Ballarat from Singapore-based ST Engineering.
The airline group announced on Tuesday it had acquired the ST Aerospace Academy (STAA), which currently trains cadet pilots for overseas – mainly Chinese – carriers including the likes of Air China, Xiamen Airlines, Hainan Airlines and OK Airlines in Ballarat.
STAA is accredited with Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). The facility has approval from the CAAC to train up to 168 cadets a year for Chinese carriers.
Rex already runs its own flying school, the Australian Aviation Pilot Academy (AAPA) at Wagga Wagga that opened its doors in 2010. In addition to training overseas pilots, AAPA also runs Rex’s cadet pilot program.
AAPA executive chairman Chris Hine said the combined size of AAPA and STAA would make Rex one of the largest airline pilot training providers in Australia.
There were also plans for further growth in the future, given the demand for pilots around the world.
“We have already identified one location and will consider more as we expand,” Hine said in a statement.
“With our expansion plans the Rex Group will have one of the largest pilot academies in the world.
“We intend to leverage on our unique and unparalleled expertise to further expand our pilot training capabilities. We will look at opening further satellite bases in Australia to respond to the insatiable worldwide demand for professional pilots that are trained to rigorous airline standards.”
ST Engineering said in a statement on its website the sale was “completed at a cash consideration of S$9.3 million on a cash-free and debt-free basis”.
The 2019 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook has forecast demand for 804,000 new civil aviation pilots – which cover the commercial aviation, business aviation and civil helicopter industries – over the next 20 years.
The demand was driven by fleet growth, retirements and attrition.
“Meeting this strong demand will require a collective effort from across the global aviation industry,” the Boeing report said.
“As several hundred thousand pilots and technicians reach retirement age over the next decade, educational outreach and career pathway programs will be essential to inspiring and recruiting the next generation of personnel.”
The Boeing report also forecast demand for 769,000 new maintenance technicians and 914,000 new cabin crew over the two decades to 2038.
Hine said Australia was one of the most attractive places for overseas pilots to conduct their training.
“Airlines worldwide are looking for alternatives to training pilots in the United States for various reasons and Australia is at the top of the list as an alternative,” Hine said.
“Australia is really seen as a preferred place to train pilots because of its weather, because of its standards and because of its English language proficiency.”