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|#3332 2008-11-30 GMT-5 hours|
Qantas and RAAF pool pilots
By Charles Miranda
The Daily Telegraph
November 27, 2008 12:01am
Taking flight ... Australia's fighter planes and Qantas jets may soon be flown by a shared pool of pilots.
* Qantas and military to share pilots
* Aimed to stop pilot poaching
* Fighter pilots already in training at Qantas
THE cockpits of the nation's fighter planes and commercial Qantas aircraft will be staffed from a shared pool of pilots under an extraordinary plan to combat a desperate shortage of military manpower.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the blueprint for the future of Australia's military as it seeks to establish a sharing of personnel to stop poaching.
Under arrangements being considered by the Federal Government, the pool of pilots would be able to travel freely back and forth between the public and private sectors.
The move is aimed at addressing a series of damning internal audits that showed Australia's fighter planes and pilots are not meeting basic air flight hours due to a lack of personnel both in the air and on the ground.
The audits reveal a similar shortfall with Navy ships and sailors.
"We've got to ask, in partnership with Qantas, whether we are getting maximum utilisation out of a limited number of people," Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said yesterday.
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Speaking exclusively to The Daily Telegraph as he toured a military dock in Spain where the RAN's hybrid aircraft carrier is being built, Mr Fitzgibbon said Australia's population was too small to sustain public and private employment needs.
He said the as-yet-to-be-released defence White Paper, a review of the nation's strategic military outlook, would address shortcomings including creating a "better relationship" with the commercial sector.
"There are two aspects to that, one is optimising the workplace model so the defence force and commercial airlines are effectively sharing personnel, and the second is making it easier for pilots to transit easily backwards and forwards so they are looking at the greener pastures on the other side," Mr Fitzgibbon said.
A Qantas spokesman said last night its airline was currently training RAAF pilots, engineers and other crew on Qantas aircraft ahead of the military taking delivery of a multi airtanker aircraft since the controls were compatible.
"Qantas isn't aware of any other approach," the spokesman said, adding also the airline did not target RAAF pilots to poach.
Mr Fitzgibbon said: "We are no more than 20 million people and there's not much point investing billions of dollars in capability if we don't have the people to man and operate that capability."
It is understood the White Paper, charting the military future to 2030, gives reservists a more central role.