Wagga’s chances of being selected to open a Qantas Pilot Academy has doubled with the airline confirming it would now open the academy in two regional locations.
The Qantas announcement, made on Thursday, said two sites were needed as part of the academy to build a “long-term talent pipeline for its airlines and the broader industry to meet the increasing need for skilled aviators”.
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey welcomed the news, saying it put the city in “a stronger position”.
“We put in a strong submission to Qantas and the impression we got was that they were looking for two sites,” he said..
“So to have confirmation is good news.”
Cr Conkey said the submission emphasised the city’s university sector and the airport’s facilities.
“It was very strongly aligned with CSU,” he said.
“We believe students at the academy may also participate in university-related activities.”
As for facilities, Cr Conkey cited the hangars that Qantas executive saw when they visited Wagga on July 11 after the city was shortlisted.
“We also have some land near the airport that may benefit them,” he said.
“There will also be an upgrade of the airport in the near future regarding the taxiway, which would make it a more productive airport.”
Cr Conkey said the facilities coupled with the city’s strong foundation in education meant it was a strong offer to Qantas.
Plans for the Qantas Group Pilot Academy were announced in February this year and it’s expected the first site will be operational during 2019.
Wagga is one of nine regional Australian cities shortlisted – the others are Alice Springs, Bendigo, Busselton, Dubbo, Launceston, Mackay, Tamworth and Toowoomba.
Academy to help aviation
In a statement, Qantas said Boeing’s latest estimates showed that 790,000 more pilots would be needed globally in the next 20 years – around one third of them in Asia Pacific.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that initial scoping had shown that two locations would be needed to reach the Academy’s potential.
“We’re aiming to train up to 100 pilots in year one but we expect this to grow to as many as 500 a year and that can only be achieved if we have more than one location,” Mr Joyce said.
“Adding up to 250 students plus instructors and support staff to any of these places needs the right infrastructure at airports, but also in the towns themselves.
“We expect that pilots completing their training with the Academy could fly for other airlines, the defence force or services like the Royal Flying Doctors.”
Mr Joyce said the Qantas team involved in selecting the locations had been impressed at the community support for the investment across Australia.
“Our team has travelled across the country to meet with community leaders, airport operators and local suppliers in each of the nine shortlisted locations,” Mr Joyce said.
There’s a lot of excitement about using the Academy to leverage more jobs and investment for the region.Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO
“There’s a lot of excitement about using the Academy to leverage more jobs and investment for the region.”
The academy’s second site is expected to be operational in 2020.
The total initial investment of $20 million is unchanged, reflecting the levels of third-party support.
A Qantas spokesperson said it was expected the academy would employ more than 40 people in training and support roles, as well as partner with local businesses and suppliers to support key administrative and catering functions.
A date has not yet been announced regarding decisions about the two sites, but Qantas said it will be “...in coming weeks”
Almost 17,000 people have so far registered their interest in the academy via qantas.com/pilotacademy.
The council’s general manager Peter Thompson has been contacted for more details about the Wagga submission to Qantas.
Record profit for national carrier
The confirmation of two sites came at the same time Qantas announced a record profit year for 2017–18.
The Qantas Group reported an underlying profit before tax of $1.6 billion for the 2018 financial year.
“That’s 14 per cent higher than last year and five per cent higher than our last record profit in 2016,” Mr Joyce said.
During his remarks about the results, Mr Joyce also spoke about the academy.
“We’re also pleased to keep investing in training,” he said.
“In February, we announced the Qantas Group Pilot Academy – a centre of aviation excellence to give us a pipeline of future talent.
”Today we’re committing to a second Pilot Academy facility to help meet global demand.
“It’s a commercial opportunity for Qantas – to train pilots for other airlines – and an opportunity to support the broader aviation industry in a country that relies so heavily on air transport.”