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The first intake of Australian Defence Force trainee pilots began classes today at RAAF Base East Sale as the finishing touches are made to the $392 million dollar redevelopment at the base.

The start of lessons for the first 10 students follows a long local campaign to bring all basic pilot training for the Navy, Army and Air Force to East Sale.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester, who is also the Minister for Defence Personnel, met the students during their first morning of lessons and welcomed them to Gippsland.

“RAAF Base East Sale will become the home to all basic pilot training for the Australian Defence Force. These terrific young students are in town already and getting on with the job of training as pilots – and that’s good for our region,” Mr Chester said.

“Up to 165 trainees are expected to come to Sale each year to undergo basic pilot training, bringing with them an expected $15 million boost to the Gippsland economy. This is on top of the current Defence contribution of $12 million per year in direct wages and supplies.

“A world-class defence force requires world-class training facilities and it’s great to see the scale and the quality of the development that’s occurred at RAAF Base East Sale.

“There’s been 300 people working on site at any one time during the construction period and up to 1200 have been involved with the works. The finishing touches are now being completed ahead of next month’s official opening.

“The East Sale RAAF Base has a rich history, but it also has an incredible future thanks to our government’s investment in these new facilities.”

Mr Chester said the Federal Government had provided $392 million for major upgrades at the base over two stages.

“Major upgrades at RAAF Base East Sale have created a modern and purpose-built training facility including flight simulators, which can provide air-time experience, a maintenance hangar, new air traffic control tower and an additional 100 student accommodation units,” Mr Chester said.

“Pilots from across Defence services will be trained using a new PC-21 aircraft, which is regarded as the world’s most advanced pilot training aircraft,” Mr Chester said. “The new aircraft and training system means we will train more people faster and to a higher standard.”

The first trainees will complete the basic pilot training course in June.

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