Regional Express (Rex) says it has received federal government approval to bring in overseas pilots, engineers and flight instructors to help overcome what it describes as a “critical skills shortage” in the industry.
The airline said on Monday it has been granted a five-year labour agreement (LA) by the Department of Home Affairs that allowed the company to hire workers in those three areas from overseas on temporary skills shortage visas.
The visa allowed those workers to apply for permanent residency after three years.
Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said the shortage of pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers and flight instructors had “severely impacted” the airline group in recent times.
“The Rex Group is confident the LA will provide much needed assistance in helping us fill up our establishment for pilots and engineers so that we can continue to provide regular, reliable and affordable air services to regional and remote communities throughout our vast regular public transport (RPT) network in every state in Australia,” Sharp said in a statement.
“The LA also allows accessibility to more flight instructors and this will bolster our capability to produce more pilots at our state-of-the-art pilot academy, the Australian Airline Pilot Academy (AAPA), based in Wagga Wagga, NSW, thereby perpetuating the cycle of pilots to meet the needs of the Rex Group and the broader aviation industry in Australia.”
Rex has said previously it had been, at times, forced to cancel flights due to not having its usual contingent of stand-by pilots rostered for duty.
INDUSTRY ESTIMATES SHOW STRONG DEMAND
The 2018-2037 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook showed 790,000 new pilots would be needed over the next two decades across the commercial, business and helicopter sector.
Further, it forecast demand for 754,000 new aviation technicians between now and 2037.
Asia Pacific represented the largest source of demand with 31 per cent of all new pilots, 34.1 per cent of all technicians and 36.1 per cent of all cabin crew to be recruited in the region between now and 2037.
In July 2018, a report found Australia had an insufficient number of pilots with the necessary skills, experience and aptitude to fly and command aircraft operated by Australian airlines.
Further, it said the situation was getting worse.
The report was written by a panel of experts shared by The Australian Aviation Associations Forum and comprising representatives from Aircraft Structural Contractors, Aviation Australia, Basair Aviation College, QantasLink, the Regional Aviation Association of Australia, the Regional Express Flight Training Academy and Virgin Australia.
Sharp said Rex would continue to seek local workers to fill these pilot, flight instructor and engineering roles, noting its pilot academy at Wagga Wagga had been training pilots for the past 10 years.
“The Rex Group will continue its search for skilled workers in Australia and is 100 per cent committed to supporting local employment by ensuring that the employment of Australian workers will take precedence over skilled workers from overseas,” Sharp said.
In August 2018, Qantas has secured approval from the federal government to recruit up to 76 overseas pilots and instructors for its regional wing QantasLink to help with pilot training.
The move was aimed at bringing in simulator instructors and experienced pilots to support QantasLink’s training program.