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Training Industry on Verge of Collapse due COVID & Ministerial Refusal to Intervene

17 November 2020

The announcement of the closure of one of the world’s leading pilot training institutions, despite the establishment of its own border quarantine facilities, is a critical blow to the country’s multi-million aviation training industry, says the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA). 

Over 120 staff, including 70 world-class training instructors, will lose their jobs and livelihoods with the closure of Waikato-based L3 Airline Academy, a purpose-built training academy based at Hamilton Airport that provides cadet airline training and accommodation for more than 200 trainee pilots. 

The announcement, effectively ending high value pilot training arrangements with some of the world’s biggest airlines was devastating for both its members, the regional economy, and New Zealand’s aviation industry as a whole, NZALPA President Andrew Ridling said. 

“As a South Pacific island with a challenging topography and quickly-changing weather patterns, New Zealand provides some of the most demanding and high level pilot training available, making it an attractive destination for international pilot cadets, particularly for airlines operating in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Captain Ridling

NZALPA was working with the company, other industry leaders and continuing to talk with Ministers and officials on a possible solution to keep the doors open.

“With a top international reputation and as part of a local industry that annually brings millions of dollars into the local economy and employs hundreds of New Zealanders, the L3 Academy already has MIQ-standard quarantine facilities for offshore students both beginning and resuming their high level training. 

“Despite this, and evidence presented on the training industry’s major financial worth and spill over benefits to the local economy, the Minister for both Education and Covid Recovery will not allow any pilot cadets in for the remainder of the year, and only likely to enable small cohorts of international students generally to enter New Zealand in 2021. 

“The sad irony is that while the Covid 19 pandemic has delivered an unprecedented blow to the global industry, international travel and aviation will eventually recover, pilot cadets and their multi-national airline employers already want them to be New Zealand-trained.  This means we are likely to once again face a global shortage of trained pilots and aviation instructors in the medium term.”

“With L3’s decision to close, we know other training providers will follow.  This is despite many years of work by industry and government officials to grow our international profile, successfully deliver excellence, and turning out hundreds of high quality New Zealand-trained pilots. 

“NZALPA will continue to do all we can to support our members and their families but this short-term approach must be reviewed urgently by the Minister,” Captain Ridling said. 

Media contact:  Lisa-Marie Richan +64 27 278 0441 or

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