UPDATE – 3.10pm
Qantas has released a statement about its executives’ visit to Wagga on Wednesday as part of the airline’s search for a new pilot training academy site.
“Our team met with local government leaders in Wagga Wagga to tour the airport facilities and assess the feasibility of our Academy being set up here,” Qantas Pilot Academy executive manager Wes Nobelius said.
“It will be a competitive process as we visit all nine regional shortlisted cities to go through in detail what’s required to establish the Academy, and ensure it is sustainable in the long term.”
A Qantas statement said the new Pilot Academy would be due to open its doors in 2019 as part of the airline’s “plans to build a long-term talent pipeline for its airlines and meet the increasing need for skilled aviators in one of the world’s fastest growing industries.
“Estimates suggest the global airline industry needs more than 640,000 more pilots over the next 20 years – 40 per cent of them in the Asia Pacific region,” the statement said.
“Wagga Wagga is one of nine regional cities shortlisted to be home to the Academy. Criteria included runway length, weather conditions to allow for a minimum of 300 days per year suitable for flying, access to uncongested and uncontrolled airspace, and infrastructure to accommodate up to 100 students in the first year of operation.
“A recent survey of the 14,000 aspiring pilots who have indicated their interest in the Academy showed that a vast majority of respondents would be open to live, and train, in any of the nine shortlisted regional cities.”
Qantas expects to make a decision about the Pilot Academy’s location by the end of September, and Wagga could get a second chance for a new investment if the city misses on the first academy.
“Qantas expects the academy will represent an investment of up to $20 million for the project, but the cost will depend on a variety of factors, including what facilities the chosen location already has,” a Qantas statement said.
“It is expected the Academy will employ more than 40 people in training and support roles, and partner with local businesses and suppliers to support key administrative and catering functions.
“Following a final decision, cities could still be in contention to host a second academy if the demand for pilots was strong enough, including training foreign students on behalf of airlines overseas, for up to 500 pilots a year.”
EARLIER – 12:50pm
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said the council put forward a good case during its meeting with Qantas on Wednesday over a new pilot training school.
Cr Conkey held a press conference just before midday following the morning city tour and meeting.
Wagga is one of nine regional cities shortlisted as potential sites for a new training school for Qantas pilots.
“It has been a busy morning. We had executives from Qantas in town for the bid for the pilot academy,” Cr Conkey said.
“I understand that Wagga was the fifth place they visited; they visited Dubbo yesterday and tomorrow they will be in Tamworth and then they are going to see Alice Springs and Western Australia.
“We’re delighted to be on the shortlist and we have a very strong case and we made that case to them.”
Cr Conkey said the Qantas executives were “very impressed” with Wagga.
“We showed them the facilities at the airport, we gave them a brief tour of the city and they are now going out to Charles Sturt University,” Cr Conkey said.
“The university is very much part of our bid as there are facilities out there that they can use and there’s a campus that pilot students can be part of.
“There’s also surplus accommodation.”
Dubbo and Tamworth, Bendigo, Alice Springs, Toowoomba, Mackay, Launceston, and Busselton are also in the running for the school, which promises millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of new jobs.
Cr Conkey said Wagga had demonstrated its capacity to accommodate about 500 people for the school and provide other amenities, such as an active sports community and cultural events like Fusion.
Cr Conkey said Qantas would likely take a few months to make a decision on the bids.
Qantas has been contacted for comment.