Around 40 Canberra contractors will be left without work after Qantas decided to move heavy maintenance checks and operations for its Boeing 717 fleet offshore.
Qantas has signed a contract with Singapore-based ST Aerospace to do the heavy maintenance work on their fleet of 20 717s, saying the offshore move was more sustainable and would help reduce repair times.
The decision has left 40 aircraft engineers out of work, although the airline will continue day-to-day maintenance on our B717 aircraft in Canberra, which requires 25 engineers at the Canberra hangar.
Qantas established the Canberra facility in 2015 after a five-year agreement between the ACT Government and QantasLink to bring its 717 fleet to Canberra for heavy maintenance.
Heavy maintenance involves stripping the aircraft and life-limited components, including engines, for detailed inspections and servicing. Maintenance is required for each plane every 18 months.
Qantas said ST Aerospace was approved by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and already did work for Qantas, Jetstar and Qantas Freight. The contract begins in July 2019.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT Government will continue conversations with the airline to bring future jobs to Canberra.
“This is disappointing news for the families involved, although we have been advised that the Qantas group will seek to provide employment options to the impacted staff,” he said.
“We will continue to engage with Qantas on future opportunities at Canberra Airport.”
Former Civil Aviation Safety Authority chairman Dick Smith blamed the decision on rising costs.
“Naturally Qantas is going to go places where it is cheapest and where they can make the most profits,” he told 2CC. “Labour rates in Singapore are about the same here so I believe the decision is due to the incredible red tape costs put on by CASA.
“Qantas is going to fly their planes empty to Singapore for their servicing because it is more economical.”
Mr Smith said it was a tough time to be in the Australian aviation industry and expressed his concern about the plummeting numbers of Australian pilots.
“The last figure I saw said pilot training was down by 30 per cent, which means in future many of our pilots will be coming from Singapore, China or India which to me is also a big problem.”