Hundreds of Indian student pilots will live and train in Whanganui under a contract won by the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy (NZICPA).
NZICPA has been awarded a multi-year, multi million dollar contract to train pilots under a cadet pilot programme for India's most successful airline, IndiGo Airlines, which currently has 49.8 per cent of the Indian domestic market.
IndiGo Airlines, operated by Interglobe Aviation, currently flies 239 aeroplanes and has orders for up to 300 more as the company embarks on international flight operations, in addition to its current domestic India routes.
NZICPA, based at Whanganui Airport, currently trains 80 pilots from around the world, contributing $10m to the economy annually.
"While establishing the NZICPA, we developed a strategy and had planned to be operating cadet pilot training within five years of commencing operations from Whanganui," board chairman Matthew Doyle said.
"We are therefore well ahead of our programme."
NZICPA chief executive Phillip Bedford said to be selected by India's premier airline was recognition of all the effort put into establishing the NZICPA brand.
The work put into the overall pilot academy by all those involved had been significant and the district was a step closer to a wider vision to become "New Zealand's aviation capital", Bedford said.
It was planned that the first group of students would begin the Whanganui-based component of the cadet programme during January 2020 and would live in a campus environment at the former Nazareth resthome.
Prior to arriving they would undergo an extensive pilot selection process in India, achieve final approval from IndiGo, and complete Indian theory study and exams.
The India component would be conducted in partnership with Flightrule Aviation Services LLP, a professionally-aligned pilot recruitment, training and management office based in Delhi. Flightrule CEO Captain Rahul Monga welcomed the partnership agreement as he felt strongly about enhancing professionalism in aviation in India.
"The Flightrule India footprint is integral to the programme as it ensures quality and brand alignment across the entire programme," Bedford said.
After training in New Zealand, the cadets would go to Abu Dhabi for Airbus A320 type rating training, before beginning line training with IndiGo.
Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall said he was "extremely excited by this opportunity".
"This will be transformative for our district," McDouall said.
"Whanganui can become the aviation training capital of New Zealand. It is amazing to think that this is where we have reached four years after council made the decision to establish a pilot academy.
"The development of the pilot academy shows Whanganui can compete at the highest level, in a high-tech, professional field."