The Australian Federation of Air Pilots is calling on the government to introduce a Job Ready Pilot program to get unemployed Australian pilots trained and ready to return to their roles.
According to a survey performed by the union, there are over 1,000 pilots in Australia that are currently without work, which could impede on the expected surge in demand for air travel once restrictions ease throughout the country.
Noting how critical it is for pilots to retain their skills and proficiency, and how fundamental the aviation industry is for the nation’s economic recovery, the union has put forward a proposal for a $10 million Job Ready Pilot (JRP) program that could see unemployed pilots ready to return to work as soon as required.
The union, in collaboration with Ansett Aviation Training, has developed and proposed a three-tier training package, which includes medical and ASIC renewals, simulator training sessions, and flight training, in order to return pilots back to operational status.
AFAP said that getting these pilots job-ready ahead of time will also work to save airlines costs on additional training, and get the industry back on its feet quicker.
“As Australia progresses out of the pandemic, and the associated economic stress, there is a real risk that the time required to progress pilots back to being job-ready will lead to impediments to service provision and capacity,” AFAP said in a submission to the senate transport committee.
“We refer to this as the pilot ‘training pipeline’, which necessarily can’t be rushed for safety and compliance purposes.
“Thus, without a program that anticipates the impending pilot resources shortfall and that targets assistance to return professional pilots to a job-ready status, the benefits and connectivity from aviation that the existing programs cite as a basis will be undermined and hampered.”
According to AFAP, the longer a pilot is away from their active flying duties, the more intensive and costly their training is going to be in order to return them to job-ready status, and costs could end up falling back on the pilots themselves.
Further, recent rumours suggest that Australian pilots are being recruited by foreign airlines to work overseas, some of which are offering generous sign-on bonuses, or offering to pay for retraining, the union said, which makes a homegrown pilot retention program more crucial than ever.
“These factors underscore our earlier emphasis on a need to expeditiously initiate a program to re-engage non-flying Australian pilots back into the Australian aviation sector,” AFAP said.
AFAP said it had developed the program following collaboration and discussion with airlines and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, to ensure it meets regulatory requirements.
The union highlighted that the Australian government has offered over $2.7 billion in financial aid to the aviation sector since the beginning of the pandemic, however said that these programs could face “reduced effectiveness” if pilots aren’t offered the necessary training to return to the industry.
“Existing aviation assistance program funding allocations are approaching the $3 billion mark,” AFAP said.
“And in comparison, for an anticipated program fund of only up to $10 million, the question should really be: Can Australia afford not to fund and establish a Job Ready Pilot program?”