COULD Bundaberg be the perfect place for Qantas to open a flying school?
This is the question to which community leaders have all shouted a resounding "yes".
It comes after Qantas began scoping regional towns, looking for the ideal location to set up shop, to help meet the increasing need for skilled aviators.
The Qantas Group Pilot Academy is expected to open its doors to students next year during 2019 and is likely to be established near an existing airfield in regional Australia to provide easy access to uncongested airspace.
It will represent an initial investment of up to $20million to establish a new facility and will train about 100 pilots a year and up to five times more for other parts of the aviation industry in the future.
This is music to 17-year-old Patrick Boylan's ears, after he left the Rum City to pursue a career in aircraft maintenance in Brisbane.
He finished school last year and was offered a scholarship with Air Queensland.
"I'm happy here at the moment but I'd definitely look at it," he said.
"My parents still live in Bundaberg, which would make it easier for me."
The 17-year-old said at the least it would put a lot more aviation jobs in Bundaberg and less people would leave.
With the university rightacross the road fromthe airport, it makessense for the two to team up.
The typical path for most students entering the academy would be high school and university graduates with strong academic performance.
After up to 18 months of classroom, simulator and real-world flight training, students would then receive further training specific to the type of aircraft they will be flying before entering service as a first officer on turboprop aircraft, sitting next to an experienced captain.
CQU Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman said the uni supported the call to the area.
"CQUniversity supports the Qantas approach for a 'regional Australia' pilot academy and would be happy to support the initiative at any of our campuses across Australia," he said.
"CQUniversity has a huge network of locations so we would be a natural partner to support Qantas in rolling out this initiative."
The university currently has three aviation degrees available at the Bundaberg campus.
Member for Bundaberg David Batt said the Rum City was the ideal spot for the flying kangaroo to dig its heels in.
"Qantas should stop looking at other possible locations, Bundaberg is ready to go," he said.
"We have exactly what Qantas is looking for."
Mr Batt said we ticked all the boxes, we are a regional town and our airport has available air side lots ready to build on.
"We also have easy to access, uncongested airspace and right across the road from the airport is CQU," he said.
"One of the only universities in Australia that offers study in aviation."
CQU conducts a pilot training program, which means students have the opportunity to stay here in Bundaberg and attend the Qantas Pilot Academy after completing their training. Bundy ticks all the boxes.
He agreed it would be a coup for Bundaberg in creating new jobs.
"Bundaberg Regional Council has been looking for an opportunity for something like this for many years, so the prospect is very exciting," he said.
"Another reason why Bundy couldn't be more suitable, is our history.
"Bert Hinkler, a born and bred Bundaberg boy, was a pioneer Australian aviator. He designed and built early aircraft and later became the first person to fly solo from England to Australia, and the first person to fly solo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
The Hinkler Hall of aviation was built in Bundaberg to celebrate his achievements, and gives visitors an insight into his adventures."
"Establishing the Qantas Group Pilot Academy here in Bundaberg just makes sense."
Hinkler MP Keith Pitt said there were three airports within a 150km area - Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Maryborough - with uncongested airspace, making this region an ideal location for a pilot academy.
"As well as multiple universities in close proximity to the airports, some already offering aviation programs, makes this region a great choice.It's a wonderful place to live and I would welcome Qantas choosing to invest in the region," he said.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the academy would become a critical part of the national carrier's long term talent pipeline - and an important resource for Australian aviation.
"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," he said.
"By creating our own academy, we can train the next generation of pilots to the Qantas Group standard."
"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. That level of demand makes the academy important not just for Qantas but for Australian aviation more broadly so that all parts of the industry have access to qualified pilots in a country that relies so heavily on air transport.
Mr Joyce said over time, he saw potential for the academy to become a competitive advantage for Australia in the region.
"It could train pilots for other airlines and grow into the largest academy of its kind in the southern hemisphere," Mr Joyce said.
The academy will 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.
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