Cobham Aviation Services Australia has recruited its first female cadet pilot for its latest intake to provide crews for its Coastwatch surveillance operation for the Australian Border Force.
The program started a year ago, is already providing its first four young pilots for the fleet of 10 Bombardier Dash-8s.
They are due to graduate next week.
Another four cadets are halfway through the intensive 53-week course at Flight Training Adelaide at Parafield Airport.
The latest intake of four cadets, chosen from about 400 applicants, includes Ruby Blagrove, 19, from the McLaren Vale wine region, south of Adelaide.
The other three cadets, all recruited from Victoria, are Jordan Negrin, Daniel Coulton, and David Collins.
Russell Dyer, vice-president of Cobham’s special mission division, said the company was “surprised and delighted” to receive so many applications for its cadet training program.
It was planned to select a further four cadets for the mid-year intake.
“Once cadets complete the program, they are fully-equipped to become first officers on our specially-modified Dash-8 aircraft,” he said.
The intensive program aimed at fast-tracking aspiring pilots to join the special mission team, with qualifications “which would otherwise take years to obtain for novice flyers.”
Mr. Dyer said the graduating cadets had “set the bar high” for incoming cadets.
Cobham Aviation Services Australia operates the Coastwatch services under a $A1 billion, 15-year contract.
The aircraft undertake about 20,000 hours a year of surveillance flying in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone, searching for illegal fishing vessels, people smugglers, drug importation, immigration and quarantine breaches, as well as assisting search and rescue operations.
The contract employs a total of 53 flight crew, as well as surveillance personnel.
It is due to expire at the end of next year, with Cobham already advanced on its submission for a new or extended deal.
Meanwhile, Cobham Aviation Services Australia is awaiting the outcome of the four billion GB pound (A$7.8 billion) takeover of the British parent company, Cobham PLC, by US-based global private equity investment company Advent International.
The takeover of the aerospace and defence group was completed last week, following the approvals from national regulators in the UK, US, France, and Australia.
The Australian aviation arm generates annual revenue of about $A400 million from a range of contracts, including Coastwatch, QantasLink regional flight services – involving 20 Boeing 717-200s on a A$1.2 billion deal running to 2026 – Qantas overnight cargo flights, Australian Maritime Safety Authority operations for four Bombardier CL-604 jets, and several fly-in fly-out (FIFO) services for mining companies.
Cobham PLC granted the Australian arm some autonomy and there were reports the business could be sold in the takeover but Advent has not indicated its plans yet.