from left- Ben Neilsen, Kyle Fitzsimmons, Luke Murphy, Harrison Skinner and Riley O’Shea.

FIVE future pilots began their studies this week as part of the first intake at RMIT University’s new flight training school at Bendigo Airport.

The course will see students gain their skills in Cessna 172 planes, with Bendigo as a base for training but also using airstrips in Swan Hill, Mildura, Shepparton, Horsham and NSW’s Riverina.

Students will study an Associate Degree in Professional Pilot, which teaches the employability outcomes of the role, before undertaking a Bachelor’s degree covering management aspects of aviation.

RMIT Senior Manager of Flight and Aviation Mike Heffey said the first week of classes had gone well, with students undertaking introductory and occupational, health and safety training, with hopes of hitting the skies today.

“The students seem all very engaged. It’s a mixture of students,  some of the students it seems may have decided on a career choice, there’s a couple of mature aged students,” Mr Heffey said.

“They seem to enjoy the facilities in Bendigo, it’s absolutely first-class.”

Bendigo became home to the university’s second flight training school due to the viability of recent upgrades to the airport.

“We also understood that the City of Greater Bendigo has been quite proactive in growing the operations at Bendigo Airport, and investing in redoing the runway and the lighting,” he said.

“I think they’ve done a wonderful job in ensuring there’s a long-term future for Bendigo Airport.

“We’re quite pleased to set up our operation there and hopefully it will attract other businesses into that area.”

RMIT plans to build additional classrooms in its hangar at the airport, with Mr Heffey expecting a larger intake to the course from school-leavers come 2020.

“We’ve done a fair bit of market research around our catchment area for central Victoria and the region,” he said.

“There’s no reason why we can’t enrol 20 or more students each intake, and grow it, and if need be we will grow our facilities to accept more and more students as we go.”

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, almost 800,000 pilots will be required over the next two decades, including more than 260,000 in the Asia-Pacific region.

RMIT’s new training school started operations just days after the City of Greater Bendigo learned it had failed to lure either of the two Qantas pilot training acadamies now confirmed for Toowoomba and Mackay, despite a strong campaign.

Director Strategy and Growth Bernie O’Sullivan said Bendigo had put forward a compelling case for consideration.

“We know that we have fantastic liveability here, uncongested air space and clear blue skies… it wasn’t meant to be on this occasion, however through the process we’ve developed really strong and excellent relationships with Qantas and we’re very pleased about that.”

He said the establishment of the RMIT flying school was great news for Bendigo, and he was pleased the education provider had seen the benefits and vision that Bendigo provides, albeit on a smaller scale.

“We’re very happy at the interest we are seeing at the Bendigo airport to grow pilot training, but also grow a compatible business park in and around the airport that services the airline industry in particular.”