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TAFE NSW students training to maintain Australia’s defence aircraft 

TAFE NSW Newcastle

TAFE NSW students training to maintain Australia’s defence aircraft 

TAFE NSW is partnering with industry leaders to give students the practical skills to maintain Australia’s fleet of defence aircraft.

Eight TAFE NSW students, who are working as apprentices at BAE Systems, are taking part in a restoration project to repair a 1943 Catalina plane. The Certificate IV Aeroskills (Structures) students are gaining the qualifications needed to pursue a career as a Structural Aircraft Maintenance Engineer.

BAE Systems maintains and repairs the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) fleet of F-35 aircraft — the world’s most advanced fighter jet. BAE Systems will employ more than 350 people directly to support F-35 aircraft in Australia by 2025. These students are getting the skills necessary to help maintain Australia's defence capabilities in the coming decades.

Seventeen-year-old Zachary Hanwright is the youngest TAFE NSW student currently in the Certificate IV Aeroskills (Structures) program. He says he enjoys taking the skills he is learning through his course and putting them into practice on a real plane. 

“I really appreciate my teachers lining up these opportunities. It was a really engaging way to learn more about the structural elements of a plane and gain some hands-on training,” he said.

“My course is teaching me the skills I need for general aircraft maintenance. My Teacher, Mick also has experience working with F-35’s in the Air Force, so he can pass on the knowledge he gained from his experience.”

“The work being done to maintain these F-35 planes is crucial to ensuring we have a strong fleet of defence aircraft. When I’m learning these skills I feel like I’m making a difference, as I know this is a really important job and that is a rewarding feeling.”

BAE Systems Director of Aerospace Andrew Chapman says their partnership with TAFE NSW is focused on building their future capabilities, particularly in the Hunter region. 

“Through the incredible TAFE NSW Newcastle training facilities, combined with our recently expanded Williamtown Precinct, we are cementing this region as Australia’s aerospace hub,” he said.  

“Skilling our future generation is our priority, as this is crucial in our support for the fleet of F-35 aircraft.” 

“We are currently recruiting for several roles in our trades streams in Mechanical, Avionics and Structures,  so it’s an exciting time to be training in this industry.”

TAFE NSW Aviation and Aerospace Instructor Mick Humphreys says students are learning crucial skills, like disassembling an aircraft, and how to inspect it and identify damage.

“These are important skills they need to know before the enter the workforce and work on planes that are as sophisticated as the F-35,” he said.

“We have several ex-military members in our TAFE NSW team who can impart the knowledge they have gained through their experience. We know what they will be working on and the experience they need – so we can prepare them for their future.” 


Media contact: Lauren McAllister , TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 02 7920 5000.