Premier backs Mackay for second Qantas academy
THE Queensland premier is throwing her support behind Mackay's campaign to land a Qantas pilot training academy, after Toowoomba secured the first regional centre.
After the announcement yesterday, the State Government has committed to doing "everything it can to help the council and community of Mackay secure a Qantas pilot training hub".
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Qantas had previously announced it would be splitting its program and would operate the training from two airports.
"Toowoomba is one, and I note that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said that Mackay is still in play for the second," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"I know the 'Mackay Wants You Qantas' program has been well received by the airline. Mackay has a strong bid and a lot to offer.
"This is just like State of Origin. We've won game one in Toowoomba, now we want to win game two in Mackay for a clean sweep of the series.
"As I said to Mr Joyce and reporters in Toowoomba today, we will do our best to ensure the second location is also in Queensland.
"Mr Joyce knows as Queenslanders do that the 'Q' in Qantas stands for Queensland."
Mr Joyce confirmed Mackay was still in the running to secure a training academy, with the potential to inject more than $32million into the Mackay economy in its first year of operation.
"Queensland is still in play, and all of the other eight airports on the shortlist are still in play," the Qantas CEO said.
"We will be making the second announcement by the end of November this year."
Despite yesterday's announcement, Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson says the fight isn't over yet, and would ramp up the local campaign even harder to ensure the sugar city was Qantas regional hub number two.
"It's not over yet, we have put a great bid on the table," Cr Williamson said.
"We know that we are on the shortlist and that's a great place to be.
"There is no reason why there wouldn't be two academies in Queensland."
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who made the announcement at Wellcamp Airport yesterday morning, said Toowoomba was chosen on the basis of the selection criteria.
Those criteria included access to uncongested airspace, a high proportion of clear weather days per year, access to support infrastructure and ability to attract students and trainers to live in the area.
As well as being confident in Mackay's bid both technically and as a liveable city, Cr Williamson said Qantas was impressed with Mackay's efforts to attract the pilot academy, which included heavy campaigning by the Daily Mercury in print and online.
"The community has got right behind our 'we want you Qantas' campaign from day one," Cr Williamson said.
"It's not just commercially driven like Toowoomba's has been.
"The campaign committee at Qantas said we had a commercially viable bid that represented our community.
"They love the feel of Mackay and our positivity."
Cr Williamson congratulated Toowoomba on the achievement, attributing its success to the owners of the privately-owned airport doing everything they could to attract Qantas.
Tamworth in NSW is also thought to be a hot contender for the second academy due to its built-in flying academy for the military.
"Outside of Queensland, Tamworth is our biggest competition," Cr Williamson said.
"The military will be vacating its flying academy there at the end of the year leaving a built in environment ready to go.
"Despite that, the 'Q' in Qantas stands for Queensland and in terms of logistics I think Mackay makes a lot of sense.
"We will be doing everything we can and ramping up our campaign from here on out."
Dawson MP George Christensen said the considerable efforts of Mackay organisations and business leaders to secure a Qantas pilot academy should be commended.
"We're still in with a chance to secure the second Qantas Group Pilot Academy site," Mr Christensen said.
"And all the work which has been invested into this bid by organisations such as Greater Whitsunday Alliance, Mackay Regional Council and the Mackay Airport could yet score the city the economic boon of a Qantas flight school.
"I also commend The Daily Mercury for their unfailing support of the #MackayWantsYouQantas campaign as well as business owners across the city who have been part of the cheer squad.
"We must now wait a while longer to see if we are successful but regardless of the outcome, the exercise has galvanised the city and proven that Mackay has so much to offer."
The potential diversification to our economy was the Mackay Regional Council's major incentive behind its Qantas campaign.
However, Cr Williamson said if Mackay missed out on the second academy, it was simply a matter of seeing who else wants to train here.
"We know how to make this work now and we know within seven months we could have a training academy operational," Cr Williamson said.
"If it's not Qantas it could be another airline in South East Asia.
"There is a requirement between now and 2030 for 700,000 pilots in the South East Asian region.
"We know we can operate a training academy here in Mackay because we've done the work and we know what it costs."
Minister for State Development Cameron Dick said the fact Qantas was still yet to announce the second academy location meant Queensland still has another opportunity to win the project for another regional community.
"Along with my Assistant Minister and local MP Julieanne Gilbert, who has been working non-stop to promote the benefits of Mackay to the national airline, we will continue fighting the case for Queensland until the second site is announced," Mr Dick said.
"We could very well still see a pilot training facility in both Toowoomba and Mackay, which would mean double the economic rewards for our state, with more jobs for Queenslanders in not one but two regions.
"The when and where of the decision is up to Qantas, but our efforts won't stop."