Updated: Apr 1, 2022
✦ 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.
For more information about the Commercial Aviation Industry’s prospects in Australia and overseas, please visit http://www.boeing.com/commercial/market/commercial-market-outlook/
AIAC Aircraft and training facilities
AIAC’s fleet comprises of DA 20s DA40s and the DA42-VI, the twin for instrument rating training and multi engine training. All flight training is carried out in Port Macquarie with a commercial training period of 13 to 15 months. We have the capacity to train 40 to 50 students a year. Ged told us, “The student number is due to the reality of a single runway and the infrastructure that we've got. Plus, we're living in an environment now where accommodation is scarce in town as well.”
A modern design, the Diamond’s up to date, glass cockpit and modern avionics are more akin to what you would see in professional pilot aircraft. Probably one of the most fuel efficient fleets in the country, they're essentially a diesel engine running on jet fuel.
“So they've got an electronic engine management system," Ged told us. "To give you an example, our DA40 is planned out at 25 litres an hour, but typically on a navigation exercise, I won't use any more than 20. That's really efficient on fuel. And contrary to popular belief, they are quite quiet compared to traditional piston engines. So that's a big advantage, but having the modern design, the modern interface, is a sign of where aviation is going in the future.”
We asked Ged about night flying training
Night flying is an essential aspect of the general aviation training.
It is an essential part of the syllabus so AIAC can't function without offering it. The whole point of the integrated course is not for trainees to get a night rating, but it's for them to obtain the required night experience to achieve what's required by CASA’s Manual of Standards.
The only way that students are allowed to go solo at night is in a circuit. That means that they must remain close to the runway, which is going to put the aircraft over the town. In those circumstances, the noisiest part is the take-off. The rest of the circuit is quite low powered, so therefore shouldn't be noisy at all, but they do get complaints when night flying is conducted.
“It’s just about communicating how things are, and understanding that this is part of what we have to do and we're allowed to do under the regulations," Ged admits. "It’s unfortunate we have a lot of estates that have been built on the flight path, so we do our part. Authorities will have to think about smart development."
Day or night they do try to mitigate noise, he told us. “We try to cut down on noise. Not just from a noise point of view, but also from a safety point of view. We’ve got a policy of no more than four people (aircraft) actively in the circuit at one time. So, one yes, that's going to reduce noise, but two, it increases separation and means that there's a larger safety factor going on there as well.”
During normal hours night circuit flying will terminate at nine o'clock in the evening, and then during daylight savings time, circuit operations cease at 10 o'clock, Ged told us. This is a voluntary curfew put in place by AIAC as the runway is open 24 hours for arrivals and departures.
Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES).
Prospective domestic students may apply for a Regional Scholarship under the QTAC RRES program to help with tuition fees. Students will need to meet eligibility criteria including, but not limited to: course commencement date, residential, and financial criteria. Visit https://www.qtac.edu.au/rres-program/ for more information.
So anyone interested in your commercial flying training, what do they do?
"The best course of action for anyone who's interested is to go to our website www.aiacollege.com.au All the information is there, contacts, profiles on the instructors - it’s the best place to start."
Australian International Aviation College RTO: 45675
Port Macquarie Airport, NSW, Australia
Head of Operations
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