Regional Express gets govt approval to hire overseas pilots, engineers

written by | November 12, 2019
A file image of a Regional Express Saab 340B VH-ZLQ. (Dave Parer)
A file image of a Regional Express Saab 340B VH-ZLQ. (Dave Parer)

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.

A Regional Express (Rex) Saab 340 aircraft.
A Regional Express (Rex) Saab 340 aircraft.


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.

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  • Wayne


    Dick Smith have a speech in April 2018 saying that CASA was killing general aviation with unsustainable cost increases, especially around training, with many schools closing. It appears he was right?

  • Peter Ritty


    Sorry Rex as much as I like you, think you are making wrong decision. Plenty of Australisn Pilots , many ex RAAF could fill the positions and I would be happier.

  • Abe Baker


    Good Day, Aviation in australia was better in the 60’s as CASA surveyors would talk with engineers to find problems and
    try to fix them. Today they are only interested in paperwork and will only follow up if the plane crashes. Dick Smith was
    involved in this change so he can be held responsible some of these changes.

  • John


    Good day
    I was until recently a UK engineer based with a private aircraft engineering company in Sydney not far from the Rex hanger. I would have loved to stayed but my age was a problem. So unless you are below the age of 50 after 3 years maybe you right to remain will not be granted unless of course the government has had a change of direction regarding age which I very much doubt.

  • Steve


    What pilot “shortage” is referred to exactly?
    There are more underemployed or not employed at all pilots, compared to positions vacant in Australia, and the last thing needed is 457 FLyboys coming here and taking Australian pilot and training jobs, so enough with that furphy.
    Recruit, train and employ Australian pilots only, and always.

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