Whanganui is filling a global gap for pilots.

At a time when commercial pilot numbers are plummeting and global demand keeps on rocketing, Whanganui's flight school is full up and intake numbers are expected to keep flying.

The New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy (NZICPA) moved to Whanganui just over six months ago and already chief executive Phillip Bedford sees the potential for Whanganui to become the "capital of pilot training".

"What we want is to form an international cadet programme that would allow 200 pilots a year to be trained out of Whanganui and employed with international airlines."

At $80,000 a student for course costs, 200 international flight school students would be a huge boost for the district's economy.


Figures from New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority show the number of commercial and air transport pilots it approved between 2009 and 2016 fell from 709 to 386.

Global aviation giant Boeing released a world pilot outlook that projected 600,000 new pilots were needed to be trained and deployed in the next 20 years.

Mr Bedford said the school had already been working with two international airlines in India and China to get the cadet programme off the ground.

"The way it would work is students would apply to a selection board with the airline and the ones that are successful would be offered employment subject to passing training with us."

Mr Bedford said increasing the intake of international students was unlimited but for New Zealand students it was subject to student loan positions.

"We have 16 student loan spots each year and they have all been filled up this year.

"I'm constantly requesting more student loan positions and I know New Zealand is looking to increase the total number funded and Whanganui has a strong case to get more funding."

NZICPA offers a two-year New Zealand Diploma in Aviation and costs just under $80,000. An individual can borrow up to $70,000, or $35,000 a year.


To help grow the school, Mr Bedford has also employed two top-level pilots.

Whanganui returnee Jeremy Anderson has jumped on board as operations director and is an A-category instructor, of which there are only a handful in the country.

Whanganui-based Air Chathams co-pilot Andrew Daken will also be joining the team operations manager while continuing to fly full-time with Air Chathams.

"I think Whanganui is well on the way to becoming the capital of pilot training," Mr Bedford said.