Mackay Airport General Manager Rob Porter has said he will lobby Qantas to bring its $20
million training academy to the region.
Mackay Airport General Manager Rob Porter has said he will lobby Qantas to bring its $20 million training academy to the region. Erle Levey

Mackay signals interest in $20m Qantas training academy

MACKAY Airport has joined the chorus of regional airports bidding to become the home of a new Qantas pilot training centre.

The company announced on February 22 that it would develop a training academy that could teach up to 500 pilots a year and potentially be the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Mackay leaders have made their bid public, following other the lead of regional centres, including Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow who, on the day after Qantas' announcement, said she wanted the $20 million facility.

The academy would initially train about 100 pilots a year, while depending on demand from other parts of the industry, this could grow to 500 pilots a year on a fee for service basis.

Qantas would invest an initial $20 million in the new academy, likely be established at an existing airfield in regional Australia, according to chief executive officer Alan Joyce.

"Boeing estimates the world will need about 640,000 more pilots in the next 20 years, with 40 per cent in the Asia Pacific region," Mr Joyce said.

Mackay Airport General Manager Rob Porter said Mackay had the excellent combination of community support, facilities and services as well as airport capacity to win the contract.

"Mackay boasts a first class university in CQU, there's a good range of accommodation and hospitality providers and the airport offers a blend of up to date facilities and uncongested airspace," Mr Porter said.

"As well as all that Mackay is, as we all know, a great place to live."

Chief Executive Officer of Regional Development Australia Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday Inc. Ben Wearmouth said 1920 was a pivotal year in Australia's aviation history when Qantas was established in Western Queensland.

"In the same year pioneer aviators Lieutenant AW Murphy and Corporal RG Simpson landed a "flying machine" at the Ooralea racecourse after a 130km, 1.25 hour flight from Proserpine, in what was to be the first flight landing in Mackay," he said.

"What better way to celebrate 99 years of Qantas and Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday aviation history than having the Qantas Group Pilot Academy established in our region. With our clear, uncongested airspace, links with CQU and the Whitsunday Islands on our doorstep, we are an ideal location for the academy and we would welcome the opportunity to be part of Qantas' journey as they continue to develop some of the best pilots in the world."

Chief Executive Officer Greater Whitsunday Alliance, Garry Scanlan said Mackay was perfectly located to host the Qantas Flight Training Academy.

"Greater Whitsunday Alliance along with other regional stakeholders including Mackay Airport, Mackay Regional Council and CQ University are actively lobbying Qantas for Mackay to be seriously regarded as the location for the Qantas Flight Training Academy. Our role will be to communicate the obvious benefits of operating in a regional area," he said.

Member for Mackay, Julieanne Gilbert said: "If established in Mackay, the Qantas Pilot Academy will boost our economy and help retain some of our brightest and best young people to our community".