Australia nears decision on interim pilot training

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Canberra is expected to decide on the provision of an interim basic flying training service by early June, having received industry responses to a request for tenders.

Australia is working towards a new flying training system for its fixed-wing and rotary-wing pilots under two delayed projects, which have prompted the need for the short-term solution.

Industry observers suggest a request linked to the Project Air 5428 pilot training system is not likely until 2011, as the Department of Defence has yet to finalise its timing, while an RFT for the Project Air 9000 Phase 7 helicopter aircrew training system is expected later this year.

Initial operational capability for the new services are scheduled as 2015-17 and 2014-16, respectively, the DoD says. With the current BAE Systems Australia-run basic flight training contract to conclude in December 2011, the interim service will run for six years from January 2012 until the Air 5428 system takes over, it adds.

BAE has provided basic flying training and screening for the Australian Defence Force at its Tamworth facility in New South Wales since 1992. The company is proposing to continue using Tamworth to deliver the long-term training system, offering value for money and a continuation of the existing high standards, says John Quaife, its aviation solutions general manager.

Boeing Australia and Thales, the latter in partnership with Flight Training Adelaide and Hawker Pacific, are believed to have also submitted bids. Boeing describes its proposal as "an innovative approach based on a crashworthy platform". Two of the bids are based on conducting flying training at Sale in Victoria.

Australia has already rejected a public-private partnership route for Air 5428, but its interim contract is expected to use a performance-based model.

Meanwhile, aerospace and training companies are waiting for the DoD to complete its requirements for Air 5428 and Air 9000 Phase 7 before finalising their teaming and partnership arrangements.

"Ideally, we would like to have those teaming concepts in place by the middle of this year, but it depends on how much certainty there is at that point in the process," says Quaife.