Tamworth's Qantas pilot academy bid strong: council

BEST FOOT FORWARD: TRC general manager Paul Bennett is very confident in Tamworth's bid for the academy.
BEST FOOT FORWARD: TRC general manager Paul Bennett is very confident in Tamworth's bid for the academy.

MORE than 40 regional cities across the country are in the running for the Qantas pilot academy, but Tamworth Regional Council’s general manager is “more than quietly confident” the city has everything it needs to be the pilot training capital of Australia.

The airline has revealed the five key criteria the successful applicant must meet: airport infrastructure, available airspace, student accommodation, teaching facilities and a minimum of 300 flying days per year.

To streamline the process, Qantas has asked each state government to throw its support behind one city.

Tamworth’s NSW-based competition includes Dubbo and Wagga Wagga but TRC’s general manager Paul Bennett said council would “put forward the best bid [Qantas] will see in regional Australia”.

He was always confident of meeting Qantas’ infrastructure needs.

“We’ve always known that we’ve got fantastic facilities for pilot training – the fact that CAE did a nationwide search and settled on Tamworth proves that,” he said. 

While there is no doubt Tamworth’s bid will be strong, Mr Bennett said the academy location could come down to what additional incentives the state government offers.

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“Say for example we have an equally good or slight better bid than a regional Queensland city, and their  government says we’ll offer you ‘x y z’, we want to offer a similar or better incentive,” he said.

“We’re asking the NSW government to consider the modernisation of our maintenance hangar at the airport, because that investment would not only be an incentive for the pilot academy, but it would see the long-term basing of Qantas mechanics here.”

Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said the city ticketed all the boxes for the academy, which would train 500 pilots a year.

“[Tamworth] has been the location at various times for the training of military, civilian and commercial airline pilots since the 1940s,” he said.

“With military training scheduled to wind down from mid-2019, Tamworth can offer a relatively seamless solution.”

Mr Bennett said the city’s bid would be made even stronger if the whole community got behind the proposal.

“It’s not a time to be complacent,” he said.

“There are whole communities pushing for this facility and investment it will bring, and it’s really important the whole community is enthusiastic about the opportunity this will bring to the region.”

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