Huge response to Qantas pilot school as more than 12,500 apply

May 11, 2018
Qantas pilot academy
More than 12,500 people have applied to become Qantas pilots. Photo: Qantas.

Air travel may have become routine but a strong response to a proposed Qantas pilot academy shows aviation still has a strong hold on the imagination of young people.

More than 12,500 aspiring pilots, 15 percent of them women, have registered an interest in attending the academy so far.

And that’s before it’s even built.

“This response is encouraging when you look at the projected growth of the industry, with estimates that the world will need more than 640,000 more pilots in the next 20 years,’’ Qantas Group Pilot Academy Executive Manager Wes Nobelius said.

“It’s a promising sign for the future of Australian aviation to see so many men and women wanting to take up a career as a Qantas Group pilot.

“The proportion of women who have registered their interest is also significant for a profession that currently has a global average of 3 percent female representation and puts us on track to reach our goal under the Nancy Bird Walton initiative to reach at least 40 per cent women in our pilot intakes in ten years’ time.”

READ: Virgin gender target takes off

The airline announced the initiative on February 22 as a way of helping it cope with future growth in an environment where competition for pilots is increasing and airlines in high-growth markets such as China are offering lucrative deals to attract foreign talent.

Qantas on Friday put out more details of what requirements airports will need to meet to put forward a formal proposal to host the $A20-million academy. More than 40 regional centers have so far expressed interest in becoming home to the facility.

It will initially train 100 pilots a year but has the potential to grow to a 500-student operation by training pilots for other operations.

The airline is looking for a regional center with an airfield, access to uncongested airspace and the appropriate infrastructure and support.

Qantas has made no secret of the fact it will be seeking incentive packages to help it set up the academy and Nobelius said the company was pleased with the response to the proposal.

There had already been positive talks the governments and state leaders, he said.

“The process will be very competitive and although there can only be one academy, we’re encouraging every region to put their best case forward.”

Applicants will need a minimum runway length of 1300m, lighting for night and reduced visibility operations and fuel tanker refueling. There would also need to be hangars and covered facilities to accommodate maintenance and parking for up to 30 aircraft with the ability to grow to 50 aircraft.

Watch spectacular landings and take-offs in high winds.

The weather will have to be good too, with a minimum of 300 flying days, and there will need to be access to controlled and uncontrolled airspace, preferably with an air traffic control tower.

Also on the menu: high tech teaching facilities and modern student accommodation.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said at the airline’s February annual results that he saw the potential for the school to be “one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the southern hemisphere.’’

The airline Friday also released a study estimating the carrier contributed more than $A5 billion to the economy in regional Australia in financial year 2017.

This included more than $A800m in direct contributions through value added by its regional operations and more than 1000 direct jobs, including pilots and cabin crew, and almost 5000 jobs supported indirectly through the supply chain.

About $450 million was spent with more than 1200 suppliers based in  regional Australia.

Another 36,000 jobs were supported by the airline’s involvement in the tourism industry and its $A4 billion contribution to the regional economy.

The Qantas Group network services 48 regional centres across 73 regional routes.