Australia set for an overseas pilot recruitment drive with visas available

by Ray Clancy on January 1, 2018

in Jobs in Australia

Australia needs to attract more foreign pilots as a severe shortage has left its internal aviation industry in a situation where flights could be cancelled and planes grounded.

According to the Regional Aviation Association of Australia the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has given the go ahead for pilots to be put back on the occupation list eligible for skilled work visas.


(By g-stockstudio/

The RAAA is pressing for pilots to be granted a four-year visa rather than a two-year visa when changes are introduced in March 2018 which will see the current 457 visa replaced by two temporary visa streams, one for two and one for four years.

‘In order to attract suitably senior pilots, who more than likely have a family growing up and so forth, we need to make it attractive enough for them to come across and uproot their family,’ said RAAA chief executive, Mike Higgins.

He believes that a four-year visa option is more likely to attract pilots to move to Australia and he hopes recruitment can start soon otherwise services would need to be cut.

The move comes at a time when the RAAA is campaigning for more investment in regional aviation with cuts in recent years affecting services to remote areas that rely on planes. In a policy document it has called for new investment of $20 million a year.

But others in the airline industry say that more needs to be done to attract people to train as pilots and putting the category back on the skilled occupation list is only a short term solution.

Civil Aviation Safety Authority figures show the total number of licensed airline pilots in Australia has remained at 7,400 in the last five years, despite predictions by aircraft manufacturers another 245,000 will be needed in the Asia-Pacific region by 2035.

‘Bringing in foreign pilots is definitely a very short term fix and, given the market, I’m not sure of the quality of the pilots they are going to get. I do foresee big problems going forward. The Government is taking a very short term view on this,’ said Murray Butt, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association.

He confirmed that pilot shortages had been one factor in recent flight cancellations in regional areas in October and November along with engineering issues.

VIPA, the union representing more than half the pilots in the Virgin Australia Group of airlines, has called for a Government white paper on the serious and growing shortage of pilots.

VIPA president, John Lyons, also said that employing more foreign pilots is a short term measure and pointed out that they will still need to be trained and tested to Australian standards which could take up to six months.

‘The problem is systemic in that the traditional sources of recruitment for airlines has dried up. General aviation has been forced into decline largely because of an over regulated. Thirty years ago the general aviation industry was thriving. It employed a lot of pilots and licenced engineers which provided an experienced source of recruitment for the airlines. Stifling regulatory changes and prohibitive costs have forced many general aviation operators and flying schools out of business,’ he explained.

He added that young people are not attracted to a flying career because of the availability of alternative high income careers which do not require an investment of over $100,000 to gain basic qualifications.

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