Update: 11am Thursday
Being home to one of the Qantas pilot academies would strengthen the bid for funding to upgrade the city’s airport, City of Greater Bendigo CEO Craig Niemann said on Thursday.
Bendigo’s chances of getting the academy doubled when Qantas announced that it would open two regional training centres “to cope with demand”.
Nine regional cities across Australia – Alice Springs, Bendigo, Busselton, Dubbo, Launceston, Mackay, Tamworth, Toowoomba and Wagga Wagga – have been shortlisted. A decision on both sites will be announced in coming weeks.
Mr Niemann said were Bendigo to be named as one of the sites “we’re really positive that we’ll get state and probably federal funding to deliver an improved terminal building”.
“We’ve had conversations with Qantas and we don’t have to build a new building straight away,” he said.
“If they come to Bendigo for regional passenger transport they’ll slowly increase their capacity to deliver as demand needs are to increase”.
Mr Niemann said the fact that the Bendigo airport was a greenfield site “with not a lot of other restrictions around the runway” was a real advantage in the bidding war.
“I think that was attractive to Qantas when they were here, seeing that there is capacity to build purpose-built facilities that they could invest in, and the state could invest in as well,” he said
“We think that’s a real advantage for us, not a restriction at all.
“It’s been really pleasing that the state premier has come out today and supported the Bendigo bid strongly with Qantas. We really think that’s a great move forward.”
Mr Niemann said having the Qantas name beside a project would enhance opportunities for both federal and state funding.
“Whether that’s for airside infrastructure, parking planes and access to the runway, or whether it’s through the regional passenger transport relationship, where we’re looking at upgrading the terminal building in due course if that happens,” he said.
“We’ve got two projects running here, they’re both live. We’re really optimistic that both could come off for Bendigo which would be fantastic.”
Having a second site obviously increases our chances of being selected for a pilot training academy. We remain very optimistic and very excited by this opportunity, and we look forward to the announcement by Qantas in the next couple of weeks- Craig Niemann
Mr Niemann said that they had hosted several visits from Qantas and “they’ve been really interested in what we’ve had to talk about in Bendigo both from an airport perspective and a city perspective”.
“The liveability of the city is really important to them,” he said.
“Having a second site obviously increases our chances of being selected for a pilot training academy. We remain very optimistic and very excited by this opportunity, and we look forward to the announcement by Qantas in the next couple of weeks.”
Mr Niemann said that the city hasn’t “had something of this nature before, it’s something new”.
“It’s going to bring highly-qualified people who are going to train predominantly young people how to fly,” he said.
“We think it’s a really good economic outcome, it’s going to increase the use of our airport which is why we built a new runway.
“It’s just going to put us on the map in terms of another destination being Bendigo and a great place to be.”
Bendigo is now in the running for one of two Qantas pilot academies after the airline on Thursday announced plans for a second regional training site.
The academies are part of the Qantas Group’s plans to build a long-term talent pipeline for its airlines and the broader industry to meet the increasing need for skilled aviators – more than 790,000 extra pilots are expected to be required globally in the next 20 years, around one third of them in the Asia Pacific.
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.
Nine regional cities across Australia – Alice Springs, Bendigo, Busselton, Dubbo, Launceston, Mackay, Tamworth, Toowoomba and Wagga Wagga – have been shortlisted.
A decision on both sites will be announced in coming weeks.
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.
“The Academy represents a commercial opportunity for Qantas, but it’s also important for the future of Australian aviation. 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.
“We’ve been really impressed with the enthusiasm from each of the shortlisted cities. It’s been fantastic. And it’s reflected in the levels of support put forward by governments, councils and the private sector. There’s a lot of excitement about using the academy to leverage more jobs and investment for the region. We really appreciate the time and effort they’ve put in to the bids.”
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.
Almost 17,000 people have so far registered their interest in the academy via qantas.com/pilotacademy.
The national carrier is encouraging more women to consider a career in aviation, which globally stands at just three per cent. To date, around 16 per cent of people registering interest in the academy are female.
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