Chapter 5

Aviation education and training

This chapter details the concerns held by general aviation (GA) stakeholders about skills shortages in the industry, and issues with the training and education pathways available to pilots, engineers, instructors and others involved in the GA sector.
This chapter considers stakeholders’ concerns about the training pathways available to GA participants, primarily through the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Key issues discussed include:
the duplication of training pathways;
the need for independent trainers and mentors; and
high training costs and the need for financial assistance.
Finally, this chapter considers proposals put forward to address the issues faced by the GA sector, regarding its capacity to educate and train its future workforce.

Systemic education and training issues across the aviation sector

In recent years, various studies have focussed on key issues faced by the aviation sector. These studies have identified a range of issues relating to the education and training of aviation sector workers across both the commercial aviation and GA sectors. Skills shortages and an aging workforce have been identified as primary concerns.

Skills shortages

In 2018 an expert panel on aviation skills and training in Australia (expert panel) released its high-level examination of strategies aimed at addressing shortages of pilots and maintenance engineers across the aviation sector. A key issue identified was the skills shortages across the aviation sector. The expert panel emphasised that the skills shortage of aviation personnel was not a future problem. Rather it was a ‘significant present challenge’ requiring urgent action to avoid major disruptions to the aviation sector. This included ‘immediate mitigations supported by a longer-term sustainable strategy’.1
Whilst consideration of the GA sector was outside of the scope of the expert panel’s review, it nonetheless outlined the traditional role of the GA sector and GA’s ongoing decline. The report recognised that GA was part of the aviation ecosystem, by providing the commercial sector with skilled workers—but the decline of GA was noted to be one of the reasons for airlines establishing their own pilot training programs.2
In 2021, on behalf of the Aviation Industry Reference Committee (IRC), the Australian Industry Standards (AIS) produced an Aviation Industry Outlook (the outlook). The outlook provided an overview of aviation industry trends and the sector’s new and emerging skills and training needs.3 The outlook incorporated findings from the IRC’s aviation skills forecast, which was released by the AIS in April 2019 (a preCOVID survey).4
The 2019 skills forecast completed by AIS identified an increasing need for more pilots, flight instructors and maintenance engineers, particularly in regional aviation. It also noted that Australian regulations on aviation engineering and maintenance ‘lack harmonisation which negatively impacts on training organisations’.5
The AIS surveyed industry stakeholders between September 2018 and January 2019 about skills shortages, with 83 per cent of respondents experiencing a skills shortage in the previous 12 months. The occupations identified as experiencing these shortages include:
educators, trainers and assessors;
engineers and technicians;
pilots; and
safety personnel.6
The survey found the most frequently cited reason for these shortages was the cost and time requirements to achieve a qualification. Other reasons provided included:
competition from other organisations;
ageing workforce and retirements of staff;
wages and salaries considered too low; and
the geographic location of a vacancy.7
The additional impact of COVID-19 has seen skilled workers potentially leaving the industry to be redeployed elsewhere or retiring early. The sector has also seen a reduction in the numbers of students, compounded by the extended closure of flight schools with deferred enrolments, education and training.8
Various stakeholders to this inquiry referenced the longstanding issue of skills shortages across the aviation industry. Queensland Aerospace College, McDermott Aviation, and the City of Kingston all spoke of the systemic skills shortage faced by the aviation sector, with dire consequences should it not be addressed.9

An ageing workforce

Along with the skills shortages, the aviation sector has an ageing workforce, which is directly impacting on the viability of GA, and the training pathways into the industry. According to the AIS 2019 skills forecast report, the average age of the aviation workforce is 41.6 years old. This figure is 10 months older than the national average for a typical worker, with the workforce aging at 1.4 times the national rate.10
A June 2020 paper by Anjum Naweed and Kyriakos Kourousis considered key issues faced by the GA industry. This report noted that the ‘intergenerational loss of knowledge and skills from an ageing workforce’ is ‘a major industry affliction, where the acquisition of the knowledge required to identify problems was being lost’.11
Various witnesses spoke of the aging workforce in the GA sector and the lack of younger workers to replace them. Mr Tim Vercoe of McDermott Aviation, observed the ‘age class of all skills in the business are getting older and older, and the pathways to replace those skills are getting more and more tortuous’.12 This view was shared by Mr Harold McDougall of Queensland Aerospace College, who commented that older people are leaving the aviation industry through natural attrition, but are ‘not being replaced by [younger] people coming forward’.13
Reflecting upon the combined impact of COVID-19 and an ageing workforce on the aviation sector, Mr Douglas Heath of Aircraft Australia commented that pilots aged 50 or over may not fly again. He argued that airlines would likely consider the cost of retraining pilots, and ultimately prioritise younger pilots.14

Education and training in general aviation

To address the skills shortage and aging workforce issues, it is imperative that education and training pathways are designed to ensure new generations of aviation workers are entering the profession. Despite its importance, various reviews—including this inquiry—have found there to be major shortcomings in the education and training pathways into the aviation sector.
A 2018 Deloitte report, entitled Connecting Australia: the economic and social contribution of Australia’s airports, found that Australia had a ‘comparative advantage in the global aviation and training market’. The report suggested that the ‘vast landscape’ of Australia had allowed for the expansion of training facilities across major regional airports.15
Despite these findings about the possibilities for aviation training in Australia, in 2018 the expert panel on aviation skills and training contended that ‘the whole system of industry training by various State and Federal government stakeholders needs complete reform’. The expert panel made short and medium to long-term recommendations that included:
improved career pathways from early career to transitioning to major airlines;
improved gender diversity across the sector;
reforms to Australia’s aviation training system;
compliance between training certifications and CASA regulations;
alignment between ASQA auditing charter, CASA regulations and international standards; and
improved vocational education and training (VET) programs, including the establishment of a VET scheme for maintenance engineers.16
The panel also recommended that Federal and state agencies coordinate a forum aimed at establishing a small number of centres of excellence for education and training purposes, along with ongoing monitoring of national and international developments in respect of pilot and engineer shortages.17
The expert panel’s findings were reinforced by the General Aviation Advisory Network (GAAN). In its December 2020 report, GAAN found there to be many adverse outcomes for GA training pathways over the last thirty years, including ‘significantly increased cost, complexity and duplication for no safety outcomes’.18 Education and training issues identified by GAAN included:
access to student loans;
duplication of processes between CASA and ASQA;
competition between competencies and licence outcomes; and
significant impacts for both pilot licencing and maintenance licencing regulations.19

Training pathways and providers

There are over 100 aviation training organisations and flight schools in Australia.20 Pilot training pathways include attending flight schools, aviationrelated colleges with degrees, airline cadet pilot programs, or via the Royal Australian Air Force.21
Education and training policies and programs aimed at the aviation sector incorporate a broad range of government agencies across the Commonwealth. Each of these agencies play a unique role in establishing education and training standards, education support packages, oversight and registration. The agencies involved in aviation education are detailed in the table below.
Table 5.1:  Government agencies involved in aviation education and training
Department of Education, Skills and Employment
National education and training policies and programs, including higher education.
VET Student Loans
Australian Skills Quality Authority
National regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training sector by ensuring training providers meet training standards.
Registered Training Organisations.
Australian Industry and Skills Committee
Advises Commonwealth and state Industry and Skills ministers on the implementation of vocational education and training policies.
Aviation Industry Reference Committee
Responsible for the AVI Aviation Training Package that provides nationally recognised VET qualifications. Supported by Australian Industry Standards.
Aerospace Industry Reference Committee
Oversees development of industry competency skills standards and qualification in the aerospace sector. Responsible for the MEA Aeroskills Training Package. Supported by the Innovation & Business Skills Australia.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Regulates Australia’s aviation safety, including the issuing of licences to aviation professionals and organisations. These regulations include:
CASR Part 61—Pilot licence and category rating; and
CASR parts 141 and 142—Flight training organisations.
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
Develops transport policies, including aviation and regulation of federally leased airports. Supported by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.
Source: Expert Panel on Aviation Skills & Training in Australia, p. 29

Vocational education and training and Registered Training Organisations

VET programs are available for many roles in aviation, including: aerodrome operations; airport safety; ground operations; cargo services; customer services; aviation transport and protection; aviation search and rescue; management and supervision; air traffic control; flight operations (pilotsaeroplane, helicopter, commercial, military, remote and pilot in command); aircraft engineers; and flight instruction.23
ASQA, as the regulator for Australia’s VET sector, provides the competency training criteria and the auditing of Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) in Australia.24 RTOs play a vital role in providing the training of both new entrants and existing workers in the aviation industry, through the AVIAviation Training Package.25

Aviation Training Package

Nationally-recognised training for the aviation sector is delivered under the AVIAviation Training Package.26 The IRC oversees nationally endorsed qualifications which are included in the Aviation Training Package. This provides the only nationally recognised VET qualification for occupations involved in domestic commercial aviation, international commercial aviation, GA, air-freight transport and aviation support infrastructure. It includes 19 qualifications, 37 skillsets, and 242 units of competency and associated assessment requirements.27
The skills forecast for 2019 reported that, at the national level, qualification enrolments in the Aviation Training Package had grown by 120 per cent in the four years to 2019.28

Issues with training pathways

GA has traditionally played a vital role in providing training to the aviation industry more broadly.29 The Australian Federation of Air Pilots, advised the committee that GA ‘often provides the initial step on the career path ladder for many aviation careers’:
… the AFAP is aware that this step is not only important but also significantly valued. From time to time, many airline pilots can be caught reminiscing about their GA flying days as some of the best flying of their aviation careers, providing them with key foundational professional experience. Many pilots choose to remain in GA because they find it uniquely rewarding.30
However, despite the benefits of the GA training environment, training pathways have become increasingly complex and costly, directly impacting on the viability of GA and the industry more broadly.
For example, GAAN reported that there have been many adverse outcomes for aviation training pathways over the last thirty years, including ‘significantly increased cost, complexity and duplication for no safety outcomes’.31
Issues across the aviation training sector have resulted in some aviation workers identifying shortcomings with the skills of recent graduates. For example, Mr John Armstrong, Director and Chief Pilot for Agrimuster, expressed concern about flight training standards, and in particular the skills and capabilities of recently graduated student pilots. Mr Armstrong warned that these new pilots were:
… completely unable to operate the maintenance release of the aircraft, know how to read it or know how to fuel an engine—basic things—and also they can’t fly…In this day and age, we’ve got 105 hours of training, but it takes an extra 40 hours to teach people how to fly.32
Similarly, a submitter stated that they were ‘still alarmed to this day at how many pilots, quite frankly, do not know how to fly aeroplanes (or [know] how aeroplanes fly)’.33
Mr John Hoore was concerned that Australia has a climate which is ‘conducive for training pilots’, and yet the country is often forced to look overseas to ‘recruit pilots and instructors to meet a shortfall in our ability to train men and women to meet the demands of the industry’.34
Additionally, the committee heard concerns that training structures—whether they be for pilots or engineers—have prioritised the needs of commercial airlines at the cost of GA.35
Ms Maddy Johnson, Chair of the Australian Flight Training Industry Association (AFTIA), warned of the critical situation facing Australia’s aviation ecosystem should the training issues not be addressed. Ms Johnson spoke of the challenges faced by the GA sector prior to COVID-19, and the vacuum that has been caused by increased competition for qualified pilots in the commercial airline sector:
Both our aviation ecosystem and sovereign training capabilities have been diminished to the point where they are critically at risk if action is not taken immediately. Currently, we do not have sufficient resources for a sustainable future for this ecosystem. Pre-COVID, flight training was under pressure from the lack of instructors and trainers overall, but especially from the lack of experienced heads of operation, senior instructors, flight examiners and airline check and training captains…This was mainly due to the vacuum effect created by the expansion of air travel globally that led to major and international airlines recruiting pilots with fewer and fewer hours of experience. This has a waterfall effect, all the way down to the foundation of flight schools training brand new pilots.36
Ms Johnson called for ‘all levels of the industry [to] come together with regulatory and funding reform to bridge the huge gap that now exists between our ability to supply trained aviation professionals and the urgent demand for skilled workers to cover and grow this industry’.37

Duplicated training pathways

GAAN,38 along with other submitters and witnesses, pointed out issues with duplication in the various aviation training pathways—whether they be for training pilots or maintenance engineers. The committee heard that the primary issue was the duplication of training requirements between ASQA and CASA.
The Aerial Application Association of Australia (AAAA) submitted that existing regulations that govern aviation training ‘have created overly complex regulatory overreach that has decimated industry training’. It called for a removal of the duplicated system in which both ASQA and CASA apply different regulatory and training requirements. Instead, the AAAA called for CASA and the Department of Infrastructure to have ‘[f]ull control of aviation training—including access to funding’.39
A similar view was shared by the Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA). It questioned the duplication in the oversight of competency training between ASQA and CASA, asking why those two bodies ‘have not agreed on a consensus approach to training to reduce duplication’ and training costs. AMROBA was also concerned with the duplication of oversight of RTOs—specifically, the requirement for CASA to approve RTOs already approved by the Department of Education.40
According to Mr Mike Higgins, from the Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA), there is ‘an appalling disconnect’ between CASA and ASQA, resulting in an misalignment between training requirements. The RAAA noted that CASA had ‘tried to engage with ASQA to agree on a [Memorandum of Understanding] to coordinate courses’, but according to RAAA no agreement was achieved. By way of example, Mr Higgins noted that a Licenced Aviation Maintenance Engineers (LAME) apprentice can complete the ASQA approved course for a qualification under the VET student loan scheme, and yet still not fulfil the requirements for a CASA licence.41
Mr Stephen Re from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), also commented that the aviation regulations set by CASA and the training standard set by ASQA were incompatible. In his role on the training board for the IRC, Mr Re had witnessed no progress for maintenance engineering training, and that training processes had become ‘almost paralysed by bureaucracy’.42
An example of the duplication caused by the current system was provided by Aircraft Australia. Mr Heath spoke of the training offered through CQUniversity—an RTO that runs its own exam in parallel to CASA’s commercial pilot licence exam. Mr Heath questioned the necessity of students sitting and paying for two exams, especially when it is the CASA exam that ‘holds the weight because they have to have that for the licensing outcome’.43
In its submission, ALAEA contended that engineering training in Australia had been ‘crippled by the failure of Federal Government departments to work closely with CASA and relevant industry representatives to recognise and address the requirements of the [aviation] industry’. ALAEA clarified that it was not critical of CASA in this respect, rather it was a broader intergovernmental issue. It argued that training bodies lacked an understanding of the training requirements set out under the Civil Aviation Act 1988:
Funding for nationally standardised CASA approved training is dictated by the States and varies significantly. It is apparent that none of these bodies understand the obligations under the Civil Aviation Act and there is no appetite for all to sit on the one room (or Zoom meeting) with CASA and peak Industry bodies to discuss solutions. It appears there is no single government minister that has the power to ensure the Civil Aviation Act is complied with in respect of training.44
Addressing training issues is of utmost importance due to Australia’s aviation industry facing a critical shortage of LAMEs. Professionals Australia commented that GA aircraft have greater care and attention needs as they age, but the LAME workforce ‘is diminishing at an increasing rate due to widespread retirements and a lack of new entrants’.45
The GAAN report noted duplication between CASA and ASQA to be a major issue for the sector. The report also found there to be ‘[r]egulatory inconsistencies between CASA-regulated and training organisations that operate under’ Aviation Self Administering Organisations, ‘as well as within the CASA-regulated system’. The report concluded that these regulatory inconsistencies could ‘undermine the standards of aviation training and the sector’s long term viability’. The report added that these issues had resulted in confusion and additional costs for people wanting to enter the aviation industry. GAAN called for a ‘more pragmatic approach’ to attract ‘new pilot entrants’.46
The GAAN report also identified qualifications for LAMEs to be ‘very restrictive’. It noted that the ‘tertiary education sector, particularly TAFE, has been unable to sustain LAME courses that cover piston and turbine engines, as well as airframe, electrical, instrument and avionics subjects to the standards required by the regulators’. A consequence of these training issues is that newly trained LAMEs have had to extend their training ‘longer than necessary’. To address this issue, GAAN called for training ‘pathways that make LAME qualifications more transferable to the outside world and vice versa’, saying this ‘would attract candidates with the ability to develop both general trades and specialised skills’.47

Independent trainers and mentors

The committee heard that one of the reasons for the decline in GA pilot training was the absence of independent trainers, which had traditionally played a key role in training.48 This point was raised by Mr Benjamin Morgan of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia, who placed blame for this decline on changes made by CASA many decades ago:
… right across Australia, we have a wholesale decline in access to flight training. Right across the general aviation industry, in virtually all corners of Australia, general aviation flight training has been in decline. The reason general aviation flight training has been in decline is that CASA changed its regulations a number of years ago and made a change to the process for an individual who is a certified, licensed flight instructor to participate in their local community by teaching people how to fly. That one fundamental change, which removed the independent flight instructor out of regional communities right across this nation, 25 or 30 years later has resulted in the largest declines in general aviation[.]49
Similarly, Mr Mark Newton was critical of CASA’s decision to ban independent flight instructors, arguing the regulator had ‘ignored industry’s attempts to get them back’. Mr Newton described a vibrant GA sector prior to the ban, where ‘local aero clubs all over the nation had arrangements with one or two local instructors who could train their members’. However, since the ban in the 1990s, GA activities in rural and regional areas have been eroded due to the lack of access to travelling instructors operating as sole traders. Mr Newton called for CASA to permit independent flight instructors under the CASR as a means to revitalising GA and the training sector.50
The importance of mentoring within the GA sector was also raised with the committee. Agri-muster/Katherine Helicopters highlighted the importance of pairing more experienced pilots with junior pilots. However, it submitted that mentoring practices had become ‘very difficult’ because of CASA’s regulations.51
Mr John Armstrong also pointed out the importance of mentoring. He argued that prior to the ban, a core number of pilots would be endorsed by CASA to mentor new pilots. According to Mr Armstrong, this system’s success was demonstrated by the significant reduction in the crash rate. He added that, once ‘the new regulations came in … all the mentoring fell over because it wasn’t allowed to be done’.52

Training costs and financial assistance

The significant costs associated with aviation training were highlighted throughout the inquiry, reportedly impacting on people’s ability to enter and train in the GA sector. This concern had been emphasised by the expert panel in 2018, which noted the cost of training was a ‘significant barrier to entry into the aviation industry’.53
Then, in 2019, the AIS reiterated that the cost of aviation training was a key challenge for the sector. The AIS noted the views of training providers that while training in Australia was considered high-quality against other countries:
Achieving quality training outcomes has an associated high financial cost. Aviation training organisations have raised significant concerns regarding the dual costs of maintaining separate RTO and Flying Training Organisation accreditation with national VET and aviation safety regulatory authorities. Many organisations question the cost/benefit ratio of maintaining duplicated training compliance requirements. High regulatory compliance costs drive student training costs, with the subsequent financial effects flowing into the wider aviation industry.54
The cost of training was also raised by various stakeholders during the inquiry. One submitter reported that cost is a large deterrent in pilot training. They outlined some the costs imposed on students, such as exam fees, with ‘just the Private Pilot theory exam for fixed wing aircraft costing in excess of $100 per attempt, [along with] theory and text books, CASA materials (such as books containing up to date air law information), and flight testing fees’. 55
To address the issue of cost, Ms Johnson from AFTIA, called for flight training funding options to be expanded by ‘building a sustainable model that rewards outcomes for both students and industry’. Ms Johnson suggested that funding should be attached to a student in modules, ‘gated by practical and theoretical achievements to unlock the next tranche of money’. More broadly, Ms Johnson stressed that regional and rural areas were disadvantaged under the current system and called for improved financial and training support for students from those areas.56

VET Student Loans

VET students may be eligible for VET Student Loans, which, according to the expert panel, have played a key role encouraging more applicants to take up aviation related training. The expert panel acknowledged this financial support was helpful but considered the then maximum loan of $75 000 was insufficient because graduates are required ‘to spend at least $100,000 to gain the minimum qualification for the industry’. The expert panel called for the loan amount to be increased to $150 000, ‘as the present limit does not support a student undertaking the full suite of courses needed to progress through the basic Commercial Pilot with Instrument Rating and certainly not to instructor level’.57
The panel also noted two other drawbacks of the current arrangements, being the RTO level cap and the exclusion of maintenance training in the financial support system. The panel recommended that a loan scheme be established for maintenance training, similar to the pilot VET program.58
As of March 2022, the maximum amount that can be borrowed as a VET Student Loan is $81 111. The compulsory repayment threshold for the 2019–20 income year was $45 881.59

Higher Education Loan Programme

Domestic students training in the aviation sector at a higher education institution may be eligible to deferred payment arrangements through the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP). Under this program, students may get access to either FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP.
Similar to VET Student Loans, the expert panel in 2018 called for the FEEHELP loan limit to increase from $102 392 to $150 000. The panel noted that this increase would ‘permit more students to be able to complete the Flight Instructure Rating as well as either the agricultural rating for student wanting to stay in [GA] or the Multi Crew Cooperation course for those wanting to continue to the airlines’.60
As at March 2022, the combined HELP loan limit for eligible aviation courses was $156 847.61 The aviation courses subject to the higher help loan limit are listed under Fee-Help Guidelines 2017.62

Holistic training review—recommendations of the GAAN report

In its report, GAAN proposed that CASA should engage with GAAN to ‘establish a holistic training review’. This review would seek to ‘remedy the significant negative impacts currently being experienced in GA through the relevant’ CASR. The GAAN report specified that the ultimate goal for such a review was to ‘attract and maintain a qualified and professional workforce to support GA and broader aviation industry needs’, and to recognise that the GA sector ‘is the entry point for commercial aviation personnel’.63
According to GAAN, identified objectives for this review should include:
the creation and promotion of careers in aviation, not just the issuing of licences;
the development of a ‘resilient workforce by ensuring transferability of skills and recognition of qualifications’;
to support the sector with corresponding regulatory measures, along with cost effective entry, ab initio training and ongoing skills and knowledge requirements;
to ensure training requirements are consistent between skillsets and licensing; and
provide for internationally recognised and transferrable qualifications.64
Specific actions called for by GAAN in its report included:
the allocation of funding and recognition for CASA-authorised technical training schools;
to resolve the competition in the ASQA and CASA relationship;
to holistically review CASR regulations (specifically parts 61, 141 and 142 competencies), ‘along with the requirement for general GA training and specialised GA training’; and
to holistically ‘review CASR parts 42, 66 and the future Part 43 for opportunities to streamline LAME training and licensing and support timely and efficient course completion’.65

Government measures to address skills shortages in aviation sector

One of the key strategies of the Aviation Recovery Framework was the development of a sustainable pipeline of workforce skills. The framework recognised that workforce pressures would remain as the aviation sector recovered from COVID-19, with many of the workforce issues faced by the aviation sector being exacerbated by the pandemic. In recognition of this ongoing problem, the Australian Government announced it ‘will work with industry to align regulatory frameworks and promote the sector to build a reliable supply for fit for purpose workforce skills’.66
Whilst the Australian Government has implemented short-term measures to address skills shortages, the Aviation Recovery Framework recognised long-term challenges remain. It reiterated the Australian Government’s support for the findings of a 2018 report developed by the expert panel. Specifically, the Aviation Recovery Framework stated the following:
… recommendations relating to the need to review, streamline and align regulatory pathways and frameworks. These frameworks relate to, among other things, licencing pathways and the relationship between CASA regulations and the Vocational Education and Training framework under Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and flight examiner upgrade pathways and examiner/instructor qualifications.
The Government will work with industry to determine how best to address these issues and promote the sector to build a reliable supply of fit-for-purpose workforce skills. Our approach will recognise Australian aviation skills will be the engine that drives industry growth in Australia and abroad.67
One of the key measures identified by the panel was ongoing support for women to enter the industry. The Aviation Recovery Framework noted that ‘[a]ttracting and training more female aviation professionals will be key to meeting future skills demand’. The Australian Government’s Women in Aviation Initiative received an additional $4 million to fund programs that address barriers to female participation in the aviation sector.68
The Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Communications advised the committee that it was still working through the recommendations made by the 2018 expert panel, which had been impacted COVID-19. First Assistant Secretary, Domestic Aviation and Reform, Ms Janet Quigley summarised the Department’s activities in response to the expert panel’s findings:
The 2018 expert panel that looked at workforce and skills also came up with a number of recommendations, which we've been working through. The review of that has been impacted by COVID, but one of the other things they recommended was an increase to the loans scheme. That came into play in 2020, which was when the loans to pilots were increased in line with other professionals, like doctors, so that they were getting the same kind of access to support. That came in in 2020.
The discussions around workforce that we've been having with general aviation have been largely around the CASA and the VET programs, where there's some misalignment and there are some inconsistencies between the programs. Again, we're looking into that in more detail and talking to our Education colleagues around what we can do in terms of skills and national approaches to some of that work.69

Pilot licensing

For manned aircraft, there are a ‘sequence of licences and certificates that correspond to broad areas of aviation activity, reflecting the relative skill sets required’. The BITRE explained that the sequence of licences provides ‘a pathway for pilots’ progression to larger and more complex aircraft’.70

Types of pilot licences

There are several possible pilot licences and ratings in Australia, which follow the pathway as detailed by BITRE, as detailed below:
Table 5.2:  Licencing of Australian pilots
Licence type
RPC—Recreational Pilot Certificate
Usually issued by RAAus and permit the holder to fly ultralight aircraft registered with RAAus
RPL—Recreational Pilot Licence
Issued by CASA, and permit the holder to fly aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 1500kg
PPL—Private Pilot Licence
Issued by CASA, and permit the holder to fly a wide range of aircraft, subject to them holding the appropriate aircraft class or type rating (must not fly for hire or reward)
CPL—Commercial Pilot Licence
Issued by CASA, and permit the holder to fly a wide range of aircraft, subject to them holding the appropriate aircraft class or type rating (can fly in controlled airspace and are permitted to fly for hire or reward)
ATPL—Air Transport Pilot Licence
Issued by CASA, and permit the holder to fly a wide range of aircraft, subject to them holding the appropriate aircraft class or type rating (permitted to fly passenger transport operations)
Source: Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Statistical Report, Aviation: General aviation study, 2017, p. 13.
Those starting out in GA can seek a recreational pilot certificate (RPC). These certificates are issued by RAAus, and as such, the person must be a member of RAAus and hold an RAAus Pilot Certificate to be permitted to fly an RAAus registered aircraft.71
An RPC issued by RAAus is ‘considered roughly equivalent to a Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) issued by CASA’. BITRE notes that ‘RPC holders seeking a RPL need only complete an application form and undertake a flight review to be granted an RPL’.72

Committee view and recommendations

The committee considers the education and training issues experienced by the GA sector, and the aviation sector more broadly, to be of significant concern. It is apparent the systemic skills shortage across all aviation occupations will continue to impact the GA sector if they are not addressed. An aging workforce, and the impacts of COVID-19, have further compounded the skills shortages across the sector.
The issues identified during this inquiry have been longstanding matters of concern. Numerous studies and papers released in recent years have aligned in their identification of these major issues, particularly those pertaining to training pathways for people wanting to enter the aviation sector. Primary amongst these concerns is the duplication of training pathways, particularly regarding ASQA and CASA training requirements. Despite this issue being a longstanding concern, it is not apparent to the committee that meaningful steps have been taken to address this issue. Whilst the committee can accept that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on progressing matters of this kind, the need for urgent reform remains.
It is critically important that consistent and streamlined training pathways are in place. The committee is concerned by reports of students having to undertake multiple examinations for different institutions and authorities—an indicator that the education system is not appropriately aligned between training and regulatory bodies. The committee agrees with the recommendation made by GAAN that a holistic training review is needed to remedy and revitalise the GA sector, in order to strengthen the aviation ecosystem as a whole. The committee anticipates the Australia Government’s Aviation Recovery Framework to play a key role in implementing this much needed reform.

Recommendation 9

The committee recommends the Australian Government, as part of its Aviation Recovery Framework, initiates a holistic training review of aviation training pathways. This review should be conducted in consultation with representatives from across the commercial and general aviation sectors, including the General Aviation Advisory Network, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and education representatives.
The committee acknowledges other recent measures are in place to address skills shortages across the aviation sector. Increasing students’ access to loan amounts via HELP, in line with the expert panel’s recommendation, has drastically improved the appeal of undertaking training in aviation. Further, measures to attract women to commence aviation careers will increase student numbers and vastly improve female representation and participation across the aviation industry.
Most important, the committee encourages the Australian Government to ensure the GA sector does not come secondary to commercial aviation activities. As demonstrated throughout this chapter, both sectors play a vital role in the entire aviation ecosystem. Incentives developed for commercial aviation activities should not come at a cost of GA; rather, it is imperative that GA is viewed as a necessary platform for prospective aviation workers to commence a vibrant and rewarding aviation career.

Recommendation 10

The committee recommends the Australian Government ensures measures to promote careers in aviation are designed to support both the commercial and general aviation sectors, in recognition of the vital role general aviation plays in the broader aviation ecosystem.

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