Asia Pacific seeks solution to looming shortage of pilots

Singapore
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With many of today’s backlog of civil aircraft destined for the region, a conference in Singapore last week looked at ways of tackling airline recruitment problems

The Asia Pacific region needs “an extraordinary training solution” to meet the booming demand for pilots, last week’s Asia Pacific Airline Training Symposium (APATS) conference in Singapore was told. The growing shortage of qualified pilots was one of the subjects considered by experts from international and regional operators and representatives of the major manufacturers, who delivered presentations geared to specific local needs.

Focusing on solutions ranging from the International Civil Aviation Organization’s new multi-crew pilot licence (MPL), through providing type-rating training, delegates discussed actions need to resolve the problem. Attendees also examined
safety issues and new aircraft technologies and their associated training implications, such as head-up displays and electronic flight bags.

Pilot training consultant Chris Long put the programme together. He said: “The content was driven by the urgent need for innovative ideas for airline training”. APATS attendees pulled no punches. Alteon’s Marsha Bell said: “Between now and 2024, Boeing and Airbus data indicates that nine out of every 10 commercial aircraft built will be delivered to the Asia
Pacific region. This calls for an extraordinary training solution because the ordinary means can’t generate the numbers of pilots necessary to fly these new aircraft.”

Asian airlines are already struggling to find enough pilots to fly the increasing numbers of aircraft they are buying,  articularly in India and China. While India grapples with the demands of new airlines and pilot retention, Boeing forecasts that Chinese domestic traffic will grow 8.8% a year on average over the next two decades and that from 2004-24 the country’s commercial fleet, excluding Taiwan, will rise to 3,239. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said in
2004 that the country needs to recruit 12,000 pilots by 2010 and pointed out that China’s two certificated pilot training schools can train only 850-900 pilots per year.

Elsewhere in Asia, ageing pilot populations are adding to the strain – and with a lack of a developed general aviation infrastructure, the region urgently needs to tackle where its new aircrew will come from.

Asian airlines mostly offer cadet pilot packages with entry level selection. Long said Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines (SIA) were particularly good examples of airlines that developed local talent.

Despite the fact it serves a relatively small population, SIA has the world’s largest fleet of Boing 777s and has 2,200 pilots to fly it. The airline runs a careful selection and training process which ensures that it fuels a constant flow of pilots into its cockpits. SIA recruits 200-220 cadets per year with 300 in training at any one time. Pilots are groomed for a long-term career with the airline and many go on to train others at its training arm, Singapore Flying College.

Long said: “I am delighted with the positive response to the APATS conference and feel that we have achieved a major milestone by admitting and exploring the issues that will affect Asian aviation in years to come.”

This article first appeared in Flight International's Working Week section. To email employment story ideas, contact flight.workingweek@rbi.co.uk

 


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