September 27, 2018 / 1:34 AM / 3 months ago

Australia's Qantas teams with training provider L3 for new pilot academy

* New school to train up to 250 pilots a year

* L3 reporting rising sales in commercial training

* 790,000 more pilots needed over next 20 years - Boeing

By Jamie Freed

SINGAPORE, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd on Thursday said it would open a flight school for up to 250 pilots a year at a regional airport in Queensland to ease a pilot shortage, using U.S.-based L3 Technologies Inc as the training provider.

Global airlines, including Qantas and its budget and regional subsidiaries, have been scrambling to increase the pool of qualified aviators as passenger growth continues to grow and ageing pilots retire.

Flight simulator makers including L3 and Canada’s CAE Inc and jet manufacturers Airbus SE and Boeing Co are investing to meet the growing demand for pilot training, often in partnership with airlines.

In Australia, some regional airlines have been forced to cancel flights due to a lack of pilots, as major carriers like Qantas that pay higher wages step up recruitment efforts.

The A$35 million ($25.4 million) Qantas pilot academy at a private airport in Toowoomba, 140 kms (87 miles) west of Brisbane, is due to open in mid-2019.

It is the first of two facilities planned by Australia’s national carrier, with the second location set to be announced later this year.

“What we’re ultimately creating is a world-class pilot school for students from Australia and around the globe,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.

The school will not be limited to future Qantas pilots; it could also train other domestic students and international students that will fly with foreign airlines.

L3 will provide a mix of single and twin-engine aircraft to support the training.

Boeing has estimated that 790,000 more pilots will be required globally over the next 20 years, one-third of them in the Asia-Pacific region.

L3 has forecast a 13 percent increase in sales in its commercial training division to $425 million this year, CFO Ralph D’Ambrosio told analysts on an earnings call in July. ($1 = 1.3780 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Jamie Freed in Singapore; additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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