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Why pilot retraining must be streamlined

Posted 15 May 2019 · Add Comment

Times have changed from 40 years ago, when a pilot at a European flag-carrier had a ‘job for life’, the only question being exactly when, between the ages of 55 and 65, to retire.

Today, a typical career pattern can involve, among others, stints at a European low-cost carrier, then a move to Middle East long-haul, and on to another low-cost or flag-carrier.
“Today, on average, a pilot changes employers seven times. That’s seven times, on average, a pilot has to redo his three-to-six-month operational conversion course (OCC),” said Gabriel.
“We have 500,000 pilots today in the world, which means that 40,000 pilots at any given time are in an OCC. The goal is to reduce the OCC to a couple of days,” Gabriel said.
“A surgeon, for example, joins another hospital and, based on his or her competencies, starts operating the next day. An Airbus or Boeing customer-support pilot can fly in any country or in any airline the next day. He or she gets a validation from the local authority… and then flies without any further ado.”
“That’s where I would like to have a standardised training organization, so that a pilot is a pilot is a pilot. Of course, there are many issues around quality, assessment, and capacity, and not everyone can fly in an airline (due to cultural or political differences). That is the way: to get to a profession that gives you the right to fly [anywhere in the world].”
Gabriel said the aviation industry was growing at a rate of 100% every 15 years. “The crisis is already here – the pilot shortage – but it is increasing day-by-day because we are already short, and since we are not doing much [about it], it’s getting more and more problematic.
“Now Airbus, for example, has started their own flight school… in Mexico. Airbus’ plan is to start two new flight schools a year. Boeing is thinking about it and is engaging third parties in the US.”
Training costs $60,000-$100,000 per pilot. “You need about 10 pilots for every short-haul aircraft. So you need to invest 10 times $60,000 – that’s $600,000 – to get a $52 million A320 aircraft [into operation].
“To get $52 million in revenue for the A320, Airbus would need to invest $600,000 in pilot training. That makes sense. It is even more important for an A380 or B767, where you need 15-20 pilots for a $300 million aircraft,” he said.
“There are thousands of people who would love to become a pilot, but they don’t have $100,000. Is it possible to get a standardised pilot and kick off a career that makes him or her happy? That is, for me, the big question.”
 

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