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Airlines

High flyers

For some time, the airline industry has faced a crucial pilot shortage but now, training providers are expanding their facilities and are investing in new partnerships to meet demand. Rob Coppinger reports
 

Training companies are investing in new facilities in Europe and North America, preparing for the greater numbers of cadets, as the routes candidate pilots can take to the right-hand seat are changing. “As you may know, currently most student pilots from China, India and elsewhere do their training in North America,” says Scott Firsing, Americas Sales and Business Development Manager at French flight training solutions company ALSIM. “We see big growth there, but in Latin America as well. We will soon open an ALSIM simulator assembly and production facility in the US to help meet this demand.”

 

L3 Commercial Training Solutions (CTS) estimates that Europe will need almost 50,000 new pilots within the next five years and about 8,000 of those will be for low cost and regional airlines. Historically, the training routes those prospective pilots would have had are the traditional airline sponsored programme or the integrated method. The integrated method is where a training provider has an airline agreement. The more recent route is the modular one, where students choose an affordable institution for each step in their education before applying to an airline. At whatever stage of a pilot’s education, airlines engage with training providers, the industry is planning for a busier future.

 

Unfortunately, airline sponsorship has become a rarity and the single training provider integrated approach comes with a bill of about £90,000 for the student.  “There is still a high cost of training and high dropout rate,” says Firsing. Such a high cost is not a viable route for everyone.  The modular approach is one answer for the ‘skilled people who can’t afford £90,000,’ says Ben Whitworth, Director of Student Pilot Preparation Firm, AirlinePrep.

 

The overall solution to this complex situation of student training costs and pilot supply is expected to lead to new partnerships with greater cooperation between the aviation community. “It should be so much more structured. Airlines could start working together,” says Whitworth. What was inconceivable a few years ago, according to ALSIM, is the long chain of regulators, aircraft and simulator manufacturers, airlines, cargo operators and military air forces talking together. “We now see the full spectrum of entities involved in aviation at the same conferences at the same time,” says Firsing.

 

Firsing points to airlines starting their own training academies with heavy simulator use as another example of facilities investment and partnerships with simulator providers to deliver the pilot numbers the industry demands. ALSIM is also seeing institutions investing in lower cost simulator technology. “We are seeing a lot more training moving from your larger multi-million dollar, three storey motion full-flight simulators, to your fixed base, non-motion devices,” explains Firsing.

 

He sees airlines looking to fill first officer seats as quickly as possible. He says: “[This] can mean taking someone with only 150+ hours or even zero hours and training them all the way up to the commercial level in a very short period of time.” ALSIM’s technology can train the student from their first taxi around an airport in a Cessna, all the way up until they are hired by the airline and start their type specific aircraft training.

 

While not necessarily a low cost or regional airline, on 8 May TUI Airways announced that it would take pilot candidates with just 500 hours of flying experience. “We understand that it can be really challenging for people to get started in the world of aviation,” TUI Airways says. The airline is investing internally, using its own trainers for the new less experienced candidates.  While TUI is a charter airline its decision reflects a wider industry trend. >>

 


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