The Qantas Group has said that in 2019 it plans to open a new ‘Qantas Group Pilot Academy’ capable of training up to 500 pilots a year.

The academy is likely to be established near an existing airfield in regional Australia to provide easy access to uncongested airspace. The Qantas Group will engage with Federal, State and Territory governments to discuss possible locations.

In establishing the academy, Qantas will partner with one of several existing training providers. Initial investment in the facility is expected to reach $20 million.

The Qantas Group Pilot 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.

CEO of the Qantas Group, Alan Joyce, explained, “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.”

Most students will be high school and university graduates with a record of strong academic performance. After up to 18 months of classroom, simulator and real-world flight training, they will receive further training specific to the type of aircraft they will be flying before entering service as a First Officer on turboprop aircraft.

Currently, the Qantas Group sources pilots from a mix of new graduates from existing flying schools, general aviation, the military and other commercial airlines. This is expected to continue in order to provide the different levels of experience needed by the national carrier.

The Qantas Group plans to recruit 350 pilots by the end of 2018.