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Mackay’s $20m Qantas Training Academy bid

By Tammy Laval

Qantas public relations announced on February 22nd that it would develop a training academy that could potentially teach 500 pilots a year, which would create one of the largest training center of it’s kind in the southern hemisphere.

Mackay Airport and financial backers also making their bid public, to join a line-up of regional locations vying to become the new base for the project.

According to chief executive officer Alan Joyce and media release from Qantas, they would invest an initial $20million in the new academy and likely be established at an existing airfield in regional Australia.

This comes not long after Mackay community leaders directed attention to the lack of regional flights & the associated costly flights pricing many regional centers out of affordability, with Moranbah used as the example with flights in excess of $600 per person return. Leaving the question, who would this center most benefit in terms of saving dollars?

Again the media release from Qantas, highlighted that the academy would initially train about 100 pilots a year, while depending on demand from other parts of the industry, this could grow to 500 pilots a year on a fee for service basis.

Qantas CEO Allan Joyce noting, Boeing estimates the world will need about 640,000 more pilots in the next 20 years, with 40 per cent in the Asia Pacific region.

This announcement, lead local representatives to commence a community social media campaign #Mackaywantsyouqantas to highlight why Mackay should be one of the nominated centres for the base location.

Ben Wearmouth, Chief Executive Officer of Regional Development Australia Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday Inc. highlighted that when Qantas was establishing itself in Western Queensland in 1920, noted as it’s landmark year, pioneer aviators Lieutenant AW Murphy and Corporal RG Simpson landed a “flying machine” at the Ooralea racecourse after a 130km, 1.25 hour flight from Proserpine, in what was to be the first flight landing in Mackay.  What better way to celebrate 99 years of Qantas and Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday aviation history than having the Qantas Group Pilot Academy established in our region. “With our clear, uncongested airspace, links with CQU and the Whitsunday Islands on our doorstep, we are an ideal location for the academy and we would welcome the opportunity to be part of Qantas’ journey as they continue to develop some of the best pilots in the world.”

Chief Executive Officer Greater Whitsunday Alliance, Garry Scanlan backed Mackay as the perfect location to host the Qantas Flight Training Academy. With the Greater Whitsunday Alliance, Mackay Airport, Mackay Regional Council and CQ University actively lobbying Qantas for Mackay to be seriously regarded as the location for the Qantas Flight Training Academy.  Indicating their role will be to communicate the obvious benefits of operating in a regional area, as was highlighted extensively throughout all their social media campaigns.

Mackay Airport General Manager Rob Porter backed Mackay’s outstanding level of community support, facilities and services as well as airport capacity to win the contract in the same social media campaign, that Mackay was just a great place to live.

With Mr Porter emphasising the regions first class university in CQU, there’s a good range of accommodation and hospitality providers and the airport offers a blend of up to date facilities and uncongested airspace.

Whereas, Member for Mackay, Julieanne Gilbert, stated that if established in Mackay, the Qantas Pilot Academy will boost our economy and help retain some of our brightest and best young people to our community, via her facebook page.

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