Bendigo Airport.

AT least 14 eastern state regional cities including Bendigo have put up their hands up to be home to the pilot training academy Qantas will build this year.

But while City of Greater Bendigo has already spoken to Qantas, the pitch will be delivered by the state government’s Regional Development Victoria.

Initially, it is likely to pit Victoria’s regional airports against each other for the opportunity.

“The government has commenced discussions with Qantas to better understand their precise needs for the academy,” said an RDV spokesperson.

“This will put the government in the best possible position to work with our regional airports, and put a highly competitive proposition to Qantas.

The airline announced in February it planned to build a training academy in regional Australia to address a global shortage of commercial pilots.

Last week, it reiterated the urgency by announcing it had applied to the government to allow in additional pilots and simulator instructors on visas beyond the existing two-year window permitted under the current skilled visa program.

Qantas would need up to 75 additional pilots and instructors in the first year and up to 55 each year for the next five years.

An Australian academy would have an initial intake of 100 pilots but fully established would train up to 500 a year.

To date, the Bendigo Weekly is only aware of two airports in Victoria – Bendigo and Wangaratta – which have indicated interest interest in the Qantas plan.

But there are a dozen more in New South Wales and Queensland which have expressed interest.

In Queensland, Cairns and Bundaberg have said they are interested.

Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Camden, Albury, Albion Park, Mittagong, Tamworth, Armidale, the Glenn Innes Severn council and Corowa are the interested airports in NSW.

Qantas is looking for an airport with uncongested airspace to locate, and it is willing to invest $20 million to develop the academy.

Bendigo’s airport has recently been upgraded but it has yet to attract a commercial airline.

The city’s climate is regarded as ideal for flying.

City of Greater Bendigo director strategy and growth Bernie O’Sullivan confirmed the council was working with the state government, through RDV, to prepare a pitch selling the advantages of establishing a training academy in Bendigo.

“We believe our new $15m runway, clear blue skies, including more than 300 flyable days, and the liveability of our community make Bendigo an attractive option for Qantas,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“These are the points we will be keen to make in our pitch to be a host site for the academy.” – Sharon Kemp