Qantas unveils its plan to help solve the global pilot shortage with a $35 million academy in regional Australia

Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty ImagesQantas CEO Alan Joyce.

  • Qantas has chosen the regional Queensland city of Toowoomba as the location for its new pilot academy that will train up to 250 pilots a year.
  • CEO Alan Joyce says the location — which has uncongested air space and hundreds of clear weather days each year — is a “textbook” place to learn to fly.
  • The world will need nearly 800,000 pilots over the coming two decades. Qantas will invest $20 million in the facility and other investments will bring spending to $35 million.
  • More than 18,000 people have applied for the new Qantas training program, with 16% of them women. Qantas says fixing the gender imbalance in the industry is a focus of its training plan.

Qantas will build a pilot training academy in the Queensland regional city of Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, as part of its $20 million plan to address ongoing pilot shortages.

Today’s announcement by CEO Alan Joyce is the first of two regional locations for training under the pilot academy plan, chosen from a shortlist of nine locations, including Alice Springs, Dubbo, Launceston and Tamworth.

Qantas will build a new hanger, classrooms and student accommodation at the recently built Wellcamp airport in Toowoomba, where up to 250 pilots a year will be trained.

The academy is due to open in mid-2019.

Joyce said a range of criteria went into choosing the right location, including uncongested airspace and a high number of clear weather days.

“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.

“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.”

Joyce said the academy will train pilots for both Australia and the world.

“Qantas has a well-earned reputation for having some of the world’s best pilots. For many of them, the journey will start right here in Toowoomba.”

Scott Barbour/Getty ImagesThe world will need almost 800,000 pilots in the coming two decades.

While the global industry is expected to need around 790,000 more pilots over the next 20 years, but interest in the Qantas academy suggests finding suitable applicants won’t been too much of a challenge, with 18,000 people already registering their interest in the airline’s training program.

Joyce said that addressing the gender imbalance in pilots — just 3% globally are currently women — will be a key focus in the Qantas program, with 16% of registered applicants women.

Construction on the Wellcamp airport facilities are expected to begin in October, with the total infrastructure investment expected to be around $35 million, with the majority of this funding contributed from private sector partners.

The Toowoomba project is expected to create 100 jobs, as well as 300 indirect jobs in the construction industry, with the Academy employing up to 160 people in training and support roles.

L3 Commercial Aviation, a global training business with facilities in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Portugal has been engaged by Qantas to deliver the pilot training.

The second location for a pilot academy is expected to be announced by the end of this year.

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