Updated: Mar 31
✦ Gerard Byrne (Ged) is the head of operations at the Australian International Aviation College (AIAC) RTO: 45675, a flying training organisation specialising in Integrated Flight Training based at Port Macquarie Airport.
One big benefit of AIAC is that they offer diploma courses under the RTO structure.
Most of the larger flying schools in Australia are Registered Training Offices (RTO’s), therefore they can offer a diploma in Flying under the Skills Network. AIAC’s primary market has been the Chinese market. But moving forward, if the pandemic taught them anything it’s don't put all your eggs in one basket.
So, while the Chinese market will continue to be a valuable one, AIAC is also keen to enrol both domestic and other international self-funded students.
International students can enrol individually through the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) system and obtain a visa and come study with us as a self-funded student.
Ged's job at AIAC has one big advantage - being based in beautiful Port Macquarie
“What a beautiful place to fly,” he said. “As far as I am concerned, it’s one of the prettiest places to get on an airplane in Australia.” He has been with the company for almost 12 years.
Port Macquarie is one of the sought-after locations on the East Coast of Australia, located about 1 hour (flying time) north of Sydney. It is a fast growing, gorgeous seaside town surrounded by spectacular hinterland. Port Macquarie is an ideal place for young adults and families to live, learn and play.
Australia has always had a fairly small market for commercial pilots, but COVID made it smaller
When you look at the numbers, back in 2019 when things were running really well, there were only just over 1000 Commercial Pilot Licences issued for that year in the country, and 100 of those were from AIAC.
That was pre-COVID when there were international students. Becoming a pilot was a growth career path, on a steadily rising curve. The pandemic caused a road bump.
COVID affected AIAC, with business declining at a rapid rate for two years until they had to eventually suspend operations late in 2020
Now they are reopening to accept local and overseas students seeking Commercial Pilot licenses and Instrument Ratings.
COVID obviously put Ged in an unenviable position where he had to lay off a lot of staff. At the moment they are back to the core group of four working instructors, a safety manager, CEO, admin staff, plus a maintenance facility. Ged is confident that the improving aviation environment will require a significant investment in more instructors and support staff.
Talking about the future of aviation Ged told us, “I think COVID has changed the ballpark a little bit in that there's been a lot of forced redundancies in the industry. We already had an age top heavy pilot demographic, a lot of those senior pilots were getting towards the typical retirement age. The shutdowns resulting from the pandemic led to many pilots taking early retirement.
“Unfortunately COVID did really hit this local community and a lot of our young people especially. I'm pleased to report that all of those people have gone on and found another position, not necessarily in aviation, but elsewhere. And, again, the future looks good for those people because there's going to be all those gaps that will need to be filled fairly quickly. And so having that training and qualification, the youth is in a good position.”
There's always going to be demand for professional pilots at any age
As aviation businesses start opening up again these positions will again open. There is a hole now for younger pilots to move into. “I think the future looks really good, provided we can keep a lid on all of these lockdowns and we can keep borders open and people flowing through airports,” Ged said.
AIAC can start people in their Professional Course from 18 years of age. Age isn’t a barrier, but medical requirements do get more rigorous from age 45 onwards.
AIAC has been training students for over 30 years, and many of their cadets have gone on to fly with major airlines in Australia and Overseas
Since 2014, AIAC has specialised in training foreign students and is registered under both the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). AIAC offers Nationally Accredited courses to Domestic and International students under the Australian Quality Framework (AQF), the RTO Standards and Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) regulations.
You can find them on the Study Australia website or head to www.aiacollege.com.au for more information.
You may have questions and concerns about the Aviation Industry and the potential to find work after your studies given the current challenges. AIAC hope to reassure you that now is the perfect time to start your pilot training as the market continues to improve and demand for pilots increases.