New push to make Wollongong home to new $20 million Qantas pilot academy

Whitlam MP Stephen Jones says the Illawarra Regional Airport would be the “perfect home” for a Qantas Group Pilot Academy.

In February, Qantas announced it would spend $20 million to establish a new regional group pilot academy, which would be capable of training up to 500 students a year and was expected to be completed in 2019. 

At the time it said it was searching for “an existing airfield in regional Australia to provide easy access to uncongested airspace”.

Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba is one of a number of civic leaders who expressed interest in the academy coming to their city. Now Mr Jones has written to Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, backing Shellharbour Council’s proposal to attract the project to the region.

“Over the past years, the Illawarra Regional Airport has grown from strength to strength,” Mr Jones said.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to build on that success and a fitting addition to our airport which is already home to the internationally-renowned Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS).”

In announcing the plan in February, Mr Joyce said Boeing had estimated that the world would need about 640,000 additional pilots over the next 20 years, with 40 per cent of those required in the Asia Pacific region.

He said the Qantas academy would initially train around 100 pilots a year for direct entry into the Qantas Group, including Jetstar and regional carrier, QantasLink. Depending on demand from other parts of the aviation industry, this could grow to 500 pilots a year on a fee-for-service basis.

“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.”

Whitlam MP Mr Jones added: “Qantas has recognised the importance of regional Australia in meeting this future demand. 

‘’Regions like the Illawarra are home to world-class universities, schools and hospitals and offer a fantastic lifestyle for young people and young families.

“If Qantas is looking for a regional centre that can both support their new facility but with the potential to grow and thrive then they should look no further than the Illawarra.”

On Sunday a Qantas Group spokesperson said there had been an “overwhelming response” to the academy announcement, while Mr Joyce has written to all state leaders to begin a conversation about where the academy would be located.

“More than 10,000 budding pilots have registered their interest – with 15 per cent of those being women,” the spokesperson said. 

“There’s a lot of excitement right across the Australian aviation industry and we’re looking forward to welcoming the first 100 students to the academy next year.”