Training the sites on more pilots
The race is on to train pilots for the Middle East's booming airline industry. Dave Calderwood checks out the situation, as another big player is about to enter the market.
Two years ago, Etihad acquired the fixed-wing training centre of Horizon International Flight Academy at Al Ain and launched the Etihad Flight College.
And, in just a few weeks’ time, the brand new Emirates Flight Training Academy will open at Al Maktoum International Airport.
Both airlines are expanding and need pilots urgently – as many as 500 in the next year alone for Emirates.
Middle East airlines as a whole need an incredible 6,000 pilots a year to meet expansion plans, according to the most recent Boeing pilot and technician forecast. That’s why the leading carriers are keen to expand their existing training centres as well as putting students through established flight schools in the west.
The Emirates Flight Training Academy and Etihad Flight College are state-of-the-art, world class training facilities. Both are taking delivery of new aircraft and both are using the latest Embraer Phenom 100E business aircraft for jet training.
Etihad Flight Academy took delivery of the first of four Phenom 100E jets earlier this year – the aircraft making a 10-day, 12,500-mile ferry flight from the Brazilian manufacturer’s HQ at Sao Jose dos Campos.
“Our flight college is a world-class training facility producing a constant stream of well-trained, highly skilled pilots ¬– the majority of whom are Emirati – for the growing operations of Etihad Airways,” said Philip Chandler, Etihad Flight College’s general manager.
“The Phenom 100E is an exciting new asset for Etihad Flight College. The airline-grade technology, performance and reliability make it an ideal initial training aircraft to prepare our students for line operations.”
The Phenom 100E will be used to teach students on the multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) course that Etihad prefers. The MPL is an innovative competency-based approach to flying training that concentrates on training pilots for airline employment. Other aircraft in the Etihad training fleet include 10 Cessna 172SP Skyhawks, six Diamond DA42NGs and two Extra 300 aerobatic aircraft for upset recovery training.
Over at the nearly finished Emirates Flight Training Academy, it is effectively a private airport with its own air traffic control tower, fire service, hangar and apron for 30 aircraft and a runway capable of handling hundreds of movements daily.
Emirates has no fewer than 27 new aircraft on order, a mix of Cirrus SR22 single-engine piston aircraft for ab-initio flight training, and the very latest Embraer Phenom 100EV.
The 100EV was officially launched at last July’s EAA AirVenture show in the USA and Emirates upgraded its previous 100E order. It has a new avionics suite with the Prodigy Touch flight deck, based on the Garmin G3000, and modified Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F1-E engines, offering more speed with superior hot-and-high performance, which is perfect for training at Dubai’s desert airport.
“We selected the Phenom 100 because we considered it to be the entry-level jet that will offer trainees unmatched systems integration and ease of operation, a high utilisation design, low operating costs, airliner-grade performance and docile flying characteristics,” said Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ executive vice president and chief operations officer.
“Our cadets will benefit from next generation technology, speed and thrust for their training missions in the Phenom 100 EV.”
Emirates has also partnered with Boeing to collaborate on a comprehensive training curriculum and software infrastructure. Under the agreement, the academy will receive an integrated software system, based on the Peters software system acquired by Boeing, for managing cadet learning and training flight operations, and an enhanced curriculum customised for Emirates.
Cadets will learn with highly interactive digital content delivered in purpose-designed classrooms and on personal tablets.
“Our programme is designed to produce career-ready pilots,” explained Captain Alan Stealey, principal, Emirates Flight Training Academy. “Exceeding regulatory requirements, the curriculum will, for instance, see cadets complete at least 1,100 hours of ground and 315 hours of flight training using a competency-focused approach.
“Emirates designed the academy to promote advancements in four key areas of pilot training:
• interactive learning for theoretical subjects in classrooms;
• practical learning in the most capable training aircraft;
• practical learning in advanced flight simulators; and
• airline-focused line-oriented flight training.”
Captain Stealey continued: “When fully operational, the academy will be able to accommodate more than 600 students at a time.”
Of course, Middle East carriers will be taking pilots from other training facilities, too. Oman Air, for example, has tied up with Egnatia Aviation Training Academy, the largest flight-training organisation in Greece, and one of the biggest in Europe. They have created an airline-oriented pilot training course complying with both Oman Air and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) requirements. Captain Mark Davies has been appointed as head of training.
Davies has more than 25 years’ international experience in the industry, holding similar roles at Oxford Air Training School, Western Australian Aviation College and recently as the head of training for the Qatar Aeronautical College. He said: “I’m delighted to have joined Egnatia and welcome the opportunity to share in their growing success. I’ve worked closely with them for a number of years now and have witnessed first-hand their commitment to the delivery of quality flight-training in what is a very demanding market sector.”
Earlier this year, Airways Aviation – now established at its new global HQ at London Oxford Airport in the UK – launched the Kuwaiti Cadet EASA frozen airline transport pilot licence (fATPL) programme with Kuwait Airways. The first class started in February at Airways Aviation’s flying base in Spain. Airways Aviation is an ambitious company following a different model to other training organisations. It holds aviation foundation courses local to students – including in Baghdad, Beirut, Dubai and Kuwait – then offers flight training in either Europe or Australia. Airways’ boss, Iain Cooper, says it allows students to discover if they really want, and have the aptitude and mental skills, to become an airline pilot.
CTC Aviation is another UK-headquartered flight training organisation with Middle East connections. It recently opened the latest window for applications for its CTC Wings multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) in partnership with Qatar Airways.
The programme takes aspiring pilots with little or no flying experience directly to the first officer’s seat of Qatar’s Airbus A320 aircraft within two years.
So far, there have been 34 graduates through the CTC-Qatar scheme since it started in 2012.
It consists of six months of theoretical knowledge work in the classroom, followed by five months of core skills flight training at CTC Aviation’s Crew Training Centre in either Hamilton, New Zealand or Phoenix, USA. Pilots then return to the UK for further training on A320 full-flight simulators at CTC Aviation’s Crew Training Centre in Southampton, before completing the course with A320 aircraft base and line training with the airline.
A world leader in flight simulators, CAE has expanded its training contract with Turkish Airlines. The agreement covers initial type-rating training, cross-qualification training and initial synthetic flight instructor/type-rating instructor courses. The programmes cover all of the airline’s aircraft fleet, including A320, A330/340, Boeing 777 and Boeing 737NG.
The training will be delivered across CAE’s training centres in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen, London Gatwick, Madrid, Rome and Stockholm.
“We are delighted to further expand our relationship with CAE to support our growing training need,” said Captain Sedat Sekerci, SVP flight training of Turkish Airlines. “We are confident that CAE’s complete range of training programmes will provide a substantial added value to our crews’ professional competences.”
Ayla Aviation, based at King Hussein International Airport, Aqaba, Jordan, recently started its Global 4 EASA programme offering an EASA (Europe) air transport pilot’s licence (ATPL).
Ayla is approved by both the Jordan Civil Aviation Authority and EASA and has trained more than 800 pilots since it started in 2006, many now working for Middle East airlines.
Ayla recently launched another interesting initiative – ‘A week at Ayla’ – to allow newcomers to experience the world of aviation. “Participants will spend time in the maintenance department, the operations department, back seat in an instructional flight, fly the simulator, and enjoy other activities with our staff and cadets at our location in Aqaba,” said a company spokesperson.
The world needs plenty of pilots over the next 20 years with the Middle East taking a large share thanks to the ambitious expansion plans of its carriers. All the signs are that the world’s pilot training industry is gearing up well to meet that demand.