PILOTS-in-training will call Armidale home if councillor Peter Bailey has his way.
Qantas announced it would open a pilot academy in regional Australia in February.
Now, Armidale Regional Council has put its hat in the ring.
“I wrote to one of the senior executives inside QantasLink and suggested we were a good location for it,” Cr Bailey said.
“We’ve got a brand new upgraded airport, we’re in the process of putting together a submission to put a second runway in – we think we’re readily suited.”
Armidale Regional Airport is the highest in Australia, giving aspiring pilots varied flying conditions.
And, there’s no need for the flying time tug-of-war, Cr Bailey said.
“We have a strong maintenance base here for small aircraft and we also have access to two other airports they could use – Glen Innes and Inverell.”
The Qantas Group Pilot Academy that’s expected to bring 500 pilots through town a year.
The initial investment by Qantas is expected to be close to $20 million.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the academy would be critical to Australian aviation, given the pilot shortage that has affected a number of regional services including Armidale.
“Qantas has a proud history of having some of the best pilots in the world and we want to make sure it stays that way,” Mr Joyce said.
“By creating our own academy, we can train the next generation of pilots to the Qantas Group standard.”
It’s expected the world will need more than 600,000 more pilots in the next 20 years.
“That level of demand makes the academy important not just for Qantas but for Australian aviation more broadly,” Mr Joyce said.
“Over time, we see potential for the academy to become a competitive advantage for Australia in the region.
“It could train pilots for other airlines and grow into the largest academy of its kind in the southern hemisphere.”
Glen Innes Severn Council has also put in an expression of interest for the academy.
The academy will initially train 100 pilots a year for direct entry into Qantas Group, Jetstar and QantasLink.
The University of New England makes Armidale an advantageous spot, Cr Bailey said.
Pilots could live on college at UNE and undertake some of their education at the institution.
“I’m sure that we could work collaboratively with the university to establish accommodation for the pilots-in-training here,” he said.
Fibre-to-the-premises NBN makes Armidale’s internet around 35 per cent faster than other communities.
The Qantas Group Pilot Academy is expected to open its doors in 2019.
Students will be high school and university graduates that will undertake 18 months of classroom, simulator and real-world flight training.
They will then move on to more specific aircraft training sitting next to an experienced captain.