After months of wishing and campaigning, QANTAS has announced Mackay as its second pilot training academy.
After months of wishing and campaigning, QANTAS has announced Mackay as its second pilot training academy. Harry Bruce

We did it: Huge new industry to boost Mackay region

MOVE over mining and sugar, Mackay has a new major player in town - aviation.

Aspiring Qantas pilots will soon fill Mackay skies with the major Australian airline selecting the city as its second Qantas Group Pilot Academy site.

After more than 12 months of #MackayWantsYouQantas campaigning, much of which the Daily Mercury spearheaded, Qantas will today announce Mackay as its preferred location for the academy.

Mackay faced stiff competition in fellow shortlisted regional cities Alice Springs, Bendigo, Busselton, Dubbo, Launceston, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga, but when it came to the crunch our region's liveability, infrastructure and clear weather was a cut above the rest.

The addition of a strong aviation industry will provide further stability to the region's economy, with the academy expected to create a ripple effect through the community, with more people interested in learning how to fly, or pursuing careers in the wider industry.

Mackay wants you Qantas. Ben Wearmouth, chief executive of Regional Development Australia and Mitchell Flor, committee member of Regional Development Australia
Mackay wants you Qantas. Ben Wearmouth, chief executive of Regional Development Australia and Mitchell Flor, committee member of Regional Development Australia Stuart Quinn

Industries outside of aviation are also set to benefit, with the academy expected to lift the profile of the region for tourists and trigger infrastructure projects, such as fringe and inner-city residential developments.

Mackay property leaders have already been warned to expect an influx of new residents once the academy got off the ground, with about 3000 extra renters flooding into the city.

Qantas Group Pilot Academy executive manager Wes Nobelius said the Mackay Airport, government and community had shown why Mackay would be an ideal place to train the next generation of pilots.

"Mackay offers optimal flying conditions and a sunny Queensland lifestyle which makes it an ideal site for a pilot academy," he said.

"It's home to good infrastructure, a proud community - even a new, state-of-the-art sport and recreation precinct for students, trainers and their families. We were really moved by the way locals came together with the #MackayWantsYouQantas campaign.

"Our initial focus is opening the first pilot academy site in Toowoomba and rapidly expanding the number of pilots there next year, before we progress our plans for Mackay."

Mackay region mayor Greg Williamson said the move was a great endorsement for Mackay Airport and the region.

"This decision is a reflection of the collaborative efforts across the community. It is a great vote of confidence in the Mackay region and its economy by an iconic Australian brand in Qantas," he said.

Assistant Minister for State Development and Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert said Qantas' decision was a vote of confidence and would create jobs in Mackay and in Queensland.

"There was intense competition from around Australia and as a community, we are delighted that Mackay has been recognised by the Qantas Group as an ideal destination to locate a future second pilot training academy," she said.

Mackay Airport general manager Garry Porter said he believed the decision would support the master planning that had been done at Mackay Airport.

The academy is part of the Qantas Group's strategy to build a long-term talent pipeline for its own airlines and help the broader industry meet the increasing need for skilled aviators.

Estimates suggest 790,000 more pilots will be required globally over the next 20 years with about one third of them in the Asia Pacific.

Qantas will now work with the Queensland Government, Mackay Regional Council and Mackay Airport to further progress the proposal for the site.

The pilot academy's first site in Toowoomba is on track to open its doors to the first student intake in September 2019 with construction on hangars, classrooms and student accommodation underway.

Mr Nobelius said today's announcement brought to a close the process to narrow down the locations for the academy from more than 60 to just two.

Applications for interested students opened in May and Qantas' appointed training provider, Flight Training Adelaide, is working through the selection process for the first intake of students in Toowoomba.



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