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Potential to pump $32M from Pilot Academy into Mackay

By Tammy Laval

With an estimated local economic benefit of $32 million in its first year, the academy has attracted fierce competition from cities across regional Australia given if plans on being capable of training up to 500 pilots a year. But so far Mackay is ticking all the right boxes against our closest rivals Townsville and Rockhampton.

Qantas’ demands range from technical airport requirements, specific accommodation needs, administration, education and health facilities, appropriate weather and even lifestyle factors.  With the academy likely to be established near an existing airfield in regional Australia to provide easy access to uncongested airspace. The Qantas Group will engage with Federal, State and Territory governments to discuss potential locations.

In establishing the academy, Qantas will partner with one of several existing training providers. The initial investment in the facility is expected to reach $20 million. The Academy will also initially train around 100 pilots a year for direct entry into the Qantas Group, including Jetstar and regional carrier QantasLink. Depending on demand from other parts of the aviation industry, this could grow to 500 pilots a year on a fee-for-service basis.

CEO of the Qantas Group, Alan Joyce, cited, “Boeing estimates the world will need about 640,000 more pilots in the next 20 years, with 40% in the Asia Pacific region. That level of demand makes the academy important not just for Qantas but for Australian aviation more broadly, so that all parts of the industry have access to qualified pilots in a country that relies so heavily on air transport.”

Most students will be high school and or university graduates with a record of strong academic performance. After up to 18 months of classroom, simulator, and real-world flight training, they will receive further training specific to the type of aircraft they will be flying before entering service as a First Officer on turboprop aircraft.

Currently, the Qantas Group sources pilots from a mix of new graduates from existing flying schools, general aviation, the military and other commercial airlines. This is expected to continue in order to provide the different levels of experience needed by the national carrier.

The Qantas Group plans to recruit 350 pilots by the end of 2018.

Meanwhile the Queensland Government last week lodged Mackay’s formal bid to be the preferred city to host the academy which met all of Qantas’ long list of requirements.

While meeting all of the demands, a range of potential ‘extras’ was also included in Mackay’s bid, such as potential upgrades to existing airport infrastructure and even new inner-city living options.

The bid outlined the potential to re-purpose and refurbish the ‘old’ Mackay Airport terminal for training and administration facilities and even establish new accommodation at the airport with a gymnasium, a catered dining room and recreation areas for students.

Along with existing facilities at CQUniversity, approved plans for four new residential developments across the city were also noted in the bid as potential options for student accommodation. These included a 170-unit development at Ooralea, a 59-unit complex with commercial and health care services on Bridge Rd, a 108-unit high-rise with retail spaces on Victoria St and a 68-unit project on Sydney St.

Greater Whitsunday Alliance CEO Garry Scanlan said Mackay produced a strong, collaborative bid supported by both Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert and Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen.

“The Mackay bid highlights our region’s strengths not just from a technical perspective, but also from a community inclusiveness and education point of view,” Mr Scanlan said.

“We are very excited to have a genuine collaboration with Mackay Airport, Mackay Regional Council, CQUniversity and Regional Development Australia in our bid. This collaboration shows our region’s genuine appetite to attract Qantas to the city.”

Mr. Scanlan said the bid document highlighted some of Mackay’s key strengths and built a compelling case for locating the Qantas Group Pilot Training Academy here.

“From a facilities perspective, both Mackay Airport and CQUniversity have the capacity to easily meet the criteria set out by Qantas, which is a huge positive,” he said.

“Importantly, during the first year of operation and after an initial construction investment of $20 million, we estimate this facility will contribute around $32 million to our local economy. As pilot numbers increase over subsequent years, that cash injection will continue to grow.”

Mackay Airport general manager Rob Porter said the bid was a well-rounded offering that was sure to impress.

“One of our region’s key strengths is our connectivity to Brisbane through 80 weekly flights. Plus, we have fantastic lifestyle attributes and a growing education sector. Mackay really offers the complete solution for Qantas,” Mr. Porter said.

“Additionally, there is a looming worldwide shortage of pilots and demand for Australian-trained pilots is especially high.

“This really is an amazing opportunity for Mackay to capitalise on a future growth industry.”

Greater Whitsunday Alliance will tomorrow launch a social media campaign to encourage the broader community to get behind the bid using the #mackaywantsyouqantas hashtag.

Qantas is expected to release a short-list of applicants by the end of the month.


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