Bendigo East candidate Gaelle Broad and Mallee MP Andrew Broad. Photo: ANDREW PERRMAN

THE method of airline Qantas in finding a location for its pilot training academy is a con, according to Nationals MP Andrew Broad.

Qantas executives toured Bendigo’s airport facilities last week as the company seeks to choose one of nine shortlisted sites around Australia.

“I think Bendigo is being conned, but I hope to be proved wrong,” Mr Broad, the Member for Mallee, said.

Mr Broad’s electorate includes Mildura, which was ruled out as a host location by Qantas last month.

“What (chief executive Alan) Joyce has said is Qantas will have a flying academy, who wants to pay me to set it up,” he said.

“I would have thought you would go out and work out which is the best area for weather, facilities, access to controlled space so they can take pilots into the air and give them experience.

“But really he is saying who will pay me the most money and I just don’t think you should play with communities like that.”

It has been reported in New South Wales that the state government there is offering $5 million if any of its three shortlisted regional cities – Tamworth, Wagga Wagga and Dubbo – are chosen for the academy. Qantas has promised to contribute $20m in infrastructure.

Mr Broad said the City of Greater Bendigo would be better off concentrating on finding a commercial carrier to fly to capital cities.

“I think a greater conversation for Bendigo rather than the flying school would be, why aren’t we flying Dash 8 aircraft to Sydney and to Adelaide,” he said.

“For example, Mildura has a population of 55,000 and we have 140 commercial flights a week and 220,000 passenger movements a year.

“I just don’t see why Bendigo hasn’t got that yet.”

The council has applied for a further $5m to upgrade the airport’s terminal which it has said would advance its business case for attracting a commercial carrier.