Glen Innes Severn Council is in contact with Qantas to try to persuade it to site a new pilot school at the town’s airport.
The chief executive of the Australian airline said that it would set up its own “Qantas Group Pilot Academy” to train 500 pilots a year. The airline would look at sites across Australia and weigh up how much money and other incentives different places offered.
Before the day was out, Glen Innes Mayor Steve Toms had made contact with the airline to find out how to proceed. His pitch is that the groundwork has already been done at the local airport for a previous, recently failed scheme to build a school to train pilots from China.
Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, said: "We are looking to each of the states and territories, not only on what incentive packages they typically provide to other companies and other industries doing similar things that would be available to the Qantas group, but what facilities they may have already because we will obviously need a functional regional airport”.
Glen Innes was working with a consortium to create a pilot school for Chinese pilots but that scheme collapsed a few weeks ago.
Mr Toms, the mayor, said that this meant that all the legal work has already been done so Qantas could make a swift start. “It would be a great fit”, he said, “because they’re an Australian company.
“We’ve got a whole package that we’ve already put great effort into, including the land, runway, development approval, clear airspace and a supportive community.
“It’s a perfect fit.”
James Gresham, a former pilot who farms near Glen Innes, said: “Glen Innes has got a very good facility in that regard. It’s all set up . We’ve got a great facility”.
Glen Innes Airport (officially designated GLI) is little used except by crop sprayers and leisure flyers but it does have a very high standard runway capable of landing large passenger jets.
Qantas wants to start its academy next year so time is tight. It would initially be for its own pilots, including Jetstar and QantasLink.
“Over time, we see huge potential for the academy to train for the industry more broadly,” the Qantas Group chief executive said on Thursday.
“We have some of the most talented pilots in the world flying for us, so imagine the demand to have Qantas pilots train others.”
Qantas said it will invest an initial $20 million in the new academy, which will likely be established at an “existing airfield in regional Australia”.
The airline says it will partner with “one of several existing training providers” to establish the academy, and that it “will also engage with federal, state and territory governments to discuss possible locations”.
“Ultimately, we expected the Qantas Group Pilot Academy to be one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere, capable of producing 500 pilots a year,” Mr Joyce said.
The pitch on the Qantas website says: “We train our pilots to the highest standards and we can draw on almost 100 years of aviation experience. We want to help shape the next generation of pilots and that’s why we’re establishing the Qantas Group Pilot Academy. It will open its doors in 2019 with an initial intake of 100 pilots. Once it’s fully established we expect to train up to 500 pilots a year.”