High hopes for Saudi Trainee Pilot Program

By Toby Walker

The Sunshine Coast will become a pilot training base for the Saudi Arabian National Guard in a contract worth over $100 Million. The first intake of trainee helicopter pilots arrived on the Coast this week to begin a 14-month course which will see them undertake advanced military pilot training at the Sunshine Coast Airport, and English classes at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Becker Helicopter Services will deliver the pilot training under a five-year deal brokered between Specialist Training Australian and the Saudi Arabian government.

Owner Mike Becker said the pilot tuition would train the students in all manner of military techniques from basic training right through to specialist skills like night-vision goggle flying. “They’ve all done basic military training and are officers and a lot of them have been educated in the West and have now come out here and brought their families,” he said.

“They belong to the (Saudi Arabian) National Guard so they will go back and work for the National Guard.” During their stay, the pilots and their families will live in accommodation in different locations across the Coast arranged by Becker Helicopter Services. Mr Becker said at a time of international economic uncertainty the deal would deliver millions of dollars into the Coast’s economy through the training contracts and money spent by the trainee pilots and their families.

‘Over the next 12 months we’ll have between 35 and 40 (trainee pilots) here,” he said. “Currently we have two buildings at the Sunshine Coast Airport and we’re building another purpose-built facility but that’s probably another 28 months away from being finished.”

Mr Becker said his own business was investing about $7 million on new staff to set itself up as the leading helicopter training service of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. “Internationally, we’re settings ourselves up to do this kind of training so the Saudi Arabian National Guard is just the first client of what we see would be other clients coming on board…,” he said.

“This will enhance our civilian school, too, because now we can actually introduce training that would have only been available to people if they had gone into the military.”

We acknowledge the Sunshine Coast Daily for the article and Toby Walker for writing it.

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