Australia’s newest major public airport, Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport, has been named as the first site for one of two Qantas pilot training facilities.
The decision on the location of the first Qantas Group Pilot Academy will see $35 million in infrastructure built at the Southern Queensland airport as it prepares to welcome the first trainees in mid-2019.
More than 18,000 hopefuls have already registered their interest in the academy and applications for enrolments will open by the end of the year.
Qantas said the new infrastructure would be majority funded by private sector partners and would include new hangar and classroom facilities as well as student accommodation.
The project is expected to create more than 100 direct jobs and 300 indirect jobs in the construction phase as well as ongoing employment for 160 people.
Global company L3 Commercial Aviation has been appointed the training provider and will bring a mix of modern single and twin-engine aircraft to the airport.
The academy will have the capacity to train up to 250 pilots a year from Australia and overseas and is part of a strategy to ensure that Qantas has a long-term talent pipeline for its airlines in an environment of rising demand for pilots.
Estimates suggest up to 790,000 pilots will be required globally over the next two decades, with South-east Asia a growth hotspot.
Toowoomba is the first of two locations chosen from a shortlist of nine regional cities, with Alice Springs, Bendigo, Busselton, Dubbo, Launceston, Mackay, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga still under consideration for the second academy site.
Suitable infrastructure was one of a number of criteria stipulated by the airline with others including uncongested airspace, a high proportion of clear weather days per year and the ability to attract students and trainers to live in the area.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the airport, state and local government, and the community had demonstrated that Toowoomba would make a great home for the first Qantas Group Pilot Academy site.
Joyce said narrowing down the possible locations had not been easy and the airline had been impressed by the enthusiasm and quality of proposals from the shortlisted cities.
“Toowoomba will be an amazing place to learn to fly. It’s home to Australia’s newest airport and offers over 300 days of Queensland sunshine each year and an environment that is textbook for pilot training,’’ he said.
“The region itself is a great place to live, work and study. We’ve already had many students express their interest in moving to Toowoomba for this pilot training.
“In partnership with the Queensland Government and the Wagner Corporation, who own the airport, we’ll build state-of-the-art training facilities and student accommodation.
“What we’re ultimately creating is a world-class pilot school for students from Australia and around the globe.”
Wellcamp was built and majority financed by four wealthy brothers on a rural field and has a 2.8km runway capable of handling a Boeing 747.