City Council Qantas bid
Saturday, 26th May, 2018
By Myles Burt
City Council has submitted an expression of interest to Qantas for its new regional pilot academy to be located in Broken Hill.
Across Australia regional cities are applying for the opportunity to accommodate the training academy, which could churn out 100 new pilots a year.
Qantas said this number could grow to 500 students a year trained by Qantas for other international airlines.
City Council general manager James Roncon said they have placed an expression of interest to Qantas, even though the airport doesn’t currently meet their set requirements for the training academy.
“The big problems for us were around the student accommodation and having some already established hangers,” Mr Roncon said.
“In terms of the readymade infrastructure that they might be looking for, we can’t hit that right here and now.”
The airport does meet the essential requirements by having a runway length of 2.5kms, clear airspace, suitable weather conditions and high visibility.
Infrastructure requirements such as extending the width of the runway, student accommodation with kitchen facilities and hanger construction could be built with the help of government assistance.
Mr Roncon said time was a major concern of making the academy a reality in Broken Hill.
“Even if we had some great benefactor that came and then wanted to spend tens of millions of dollars to develop that, it would probably be difficult to do that in the space of 12 months,” he said.
He said he was open to talks with the government and Qantas on ensuring the training academy’s infrastructure needs are met, if Broken Hill is selected as a prime candidate.
“But if there was some government/private investment, we’d be happy to be part of that to look to develop it further,” he said.
City Council has already submitted a $20 million grant application to the government for upgrading the airport.
Mr Roncon said the planned upgrades on airport infrastructure and facilities are to ensure that Broken Hill is able to accommodate jet and charter planes that wish to land in the area.
With this already in motion, Mr Roncon hopes this is seen in a favourable light by Qantas on the city’s chances for selection.
Mayor Darriea Turley said that even though the chances are slim, Council was eager to put its hand up on the unique opportunity.
“Our airport is really an incredible asset to us and we don’t use it enough,” said Mayor Turley.
“I think for Broken Hill the way forward is to say we’re in the race, and that we are innovative, we’re committed to making sure things do get done and that we do have a strong future.
“But we do have to put our hands up for things, and we do have to tell the government that we’re actually open for business.”
Mayor Turley said even though the airport is lacking some of the Qantas requirements, she is sure that the infrastructure hurdles can be overcome if Qantas saw Broken Hill as an eligible candidate.
“I’m sure if Broken Hill was successful the government would help us in that process,” she said.
“But really if you’re actually attracting Qantas as a training centre, I’m sure the community would have that built in a heartbeat.”
Mayor Turley said the prime factor Broken Hill has over other regional towns was the flight access to multiple capital cities compared to other regional centres.
“The selling point in all this is that Broken Hill is probably the only regional airline that has direct flights to Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney,” said Mayor Turley.
“No other rural town that I know of has those flights where they access three capital cities.”
Mayor Turley said the airport was a major gateway to attracting further business opportunities into Broken Hill.
“Our biggest thing is not just thinking about what the potential of Qantas is, but how do we position the airport for the future, how do we make sure that we attract business,” she said.
“You look at every city around Australia and every airport isn’t an airport anymore, it’s a whole range of things.
“If we’re going to be open to business, we have to find out how we’re going to utilise that land mass out there.
“So there’s great potential whether it’s Qantas or another business.”