Community support helps land Qantas for Mackay

Published: 05 Jul 2019

Mayor Greg Williamson has paid tribute to the community after Mackay was announced as the preferred location for a second Qantas Group Pilot Academy site.

“I couldn’t be more proud, as a civic leader, to stand here and say ‘I think our community has done this’,”” Cr Williamson said.

“It’s a fantastic day for the Mackay region,’’ he said.

Cr Williamson said the strength of a submission by the Greater Whitsunday Alliance (GW3) helped put Mackay in the mix of more than 60 applications around Australia, which was then shortlisted to nine.

He said that was boosted by the backing of the State Government and community support, including a media campaign, as well as the support of community leaders, who had met face-to-face with Qantas.

Toowoomba was announced as the first preferred site for a Qantas Pilot Training Academy last year, with Mackay remaining in the running for the second site.

“From about the announcement of the first site to now, the fact that the council and the airport have worked very closely has got us this far,’’ Cr Williamson said.

He paid tribute to Mackay Airport, including its senior staff and board of directors.

“And to our (council) CEO Craig Doyle and executive officer David McKendry, who have done the bulk of the legwork to get us this far.”

Cr Williamson, a keen pilot himself, said there was still a lot of work to do before the first trainee pilots were in the sky in Mackay.

“Now the real hard work starts,’’ he said.

“It will be Qantas’ decision about how they want the second site to look.

“That will be predicated a lot on how the first site goes. We’re going to be very interested about how Toowoomba operates and how successful Toowoomba is.

“We want to see Toowoomba work and work very, very well for Qantas.

“We’ll work closely with the State Government, the airport and Qantas to make sure we’re doing everything we can as a community to fast-track whatever happens in Mackay with the second training academy.”
When first mooted, it was indicated a pilot training academy could create around 2000 to 3000 jobs in a regional city the size of Mackay.

Cr Williamson said the economic benefits of such a facility would come from the “trickle down jobs”.

“For us, diversity is what we’ve been talking about for a long time – well, now we’ve got the opportunity.”

Mackay Airport general manager Garry Porter, who took up his position this year, revealed he was previously part of the Alice Springs bid.

He believes the collaborative approach of the Mackay region had a big impact on the Qantas decision.

“To see Mackay, and having been new to the region, the community spirit – locals and business coming together to deliver this outcome – has been amazing,”

Mr Porter said the cross runway, which had been decommissioned for a period, could be reopened once there was a timeframe from Qantas.

He said the airport also had land identified in its masterplan and strategic plan for associated facilities.

“We’ll work with Qantas and other stakeholders as to what it (the training academy) looks like at the end.

“We see ourselves as a conduit with council to deliver this and make it the best academy that Qantas has, and we’ll make whatever we can available to deliver that.

“Let’s see what happens in Toowoomba and let’s see the lessons from Toowoomba and how we can leverage and improve if need be.”