Qantaslink flight out of Hervey Bay.Photo: Alistair Brightman / Fraser Coast Chronicle
Qantaslink flight out of Hervey Bay.Photo: Alistair Brightman / Fraser Coast Chronicle Alistair Brightman

Leading airline eyes pilot school on Fraser Coast

THE Fraser Coast is in the running to be considered as the home of a new pilot training academy from Australia's leading airline.

If successful, the region would be in a position to help restore stability to dwindling flights and passenger numbers and create an economic windfall as hundreds of pilots are trained at the new flight school.

The Fraser Coast has submitted a bid to bring the pilot academy to the region in collaboration with neighbouring Bundaberg Regional Council.

Once established, the academy will train hundreds of new Qantas pilots to fly routes across the country.

Aviation councillor Paul Truscott said having the academy in the region would be an opportunity to bring growth, jobs and development to the Fraser Coast.

"Both our airports have great features, and we have an advantage over other regions by having two capable airports to house the training academy," Cr Truscott said.

"This academy would bring hundreds of pilots over the course of a couple of decades.

"There are also opportunities for the families of budding pilots to move here, so we'd have an influx of new residents on the Fraser Coast."

An economic impact assessment identified the creation of around 50 jobs in the first year of operation.

It is estimated more than $11.5 million would be added to the local economy annually.

"This is an exciting project for the Fraser Coast to be a part of. It is early stages in the process but this is an initiative we are very keen to bring to our region," Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said.

"The academy is a key employment opportunity and would attract training and operational staff."

"The region has a high number of clear, cloudless days which would ensure that there would be few interruptions to training."

The proposal comes after a series of flight cuts from Hervey Bay airport flights over the past few months.

Council documents reveal total passenger numbers for Virgin Australia and Qantaslink for March were 13,888 - a decrease of about 0.08 per cent on the financial year to date.

The decrease has been attributed to changes in QantasLink flights, which QantasLink blames on the aforementioned pilot shortage.

While Cr Truscott said flight numbers were still a long-term issue, he said he was hopeful the trained pilots could help return the lost flights to the Fraser Coast and regional Queensland.

"But that's ultimately up to Qantas to make the decision on what services they could reinstate," he said.

A spokeswoman from Qantas said the airline was reviewing the proposals put forward by all the regional cities and would announce a shortlist toward the end of the month.

Once fully established, the pilot academy will skill up to about 500 pilots per year.