Middle East Careers: training the next generation

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Although Gulf-based airlines will recruit hundreds of expatriate pilots over the next few years to crew their expanding fleets, they also have a huge political imperative to employ their own citizens. Unlike some Arab countries, the UAE and Qatar do not have large numbers of disaffected and unemployed young people. However, resource-rich Abu Dhabi and Qatar, in particular, are keen to diversify their economies from relying on the oil and gas and government sectors, and create the meaningful employment that comes with such a move. And, despite the travails of its property market, Dubai has proved that the "aeropolis" model of generating revenue through tourism and trade via a global hub is a winning strategy.

The need to train all these would-be pilots and technicians - often school or college leavers who have never been near an aircraft other than as a passenger - means the Gulf's training sector is booming. And that is creating its own demand for experienced training pilots and managers from abroad.

At the simulator training end of the market, the biggest third-party provider in the Middle East is CAE-Emirates Flight Training, a joint venture in Dubai, while Gulf Air in Bahrain and Royal Jordanian in Amman have both spun off their training divisions as independent businesses. Also, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways [check] all have their own training facilites.

On the ab initio side, the main player is Horizon Flight Academy in the desert oasis city of Al Ain, part of Abu Dhabi. Although the school trains students from across the region and beyond, one of its main roles is as a feeder for Etihad. Set up in 2002 and part of the state-run Mubadala Aerospace holding, Horizon saw, in 2007, the first two female Emirati graduates of the cadet programme it runs for the airline. Both became second officers.

Horizon's fleet includes the Bell 206 helicopter, as well as Diamond DA42s and Cessna 172SPs. It has just added an Elite S723 Eurocopter AS350 simulator.

Other flight training organisations in the region include Fujairah Flight Academy and Ayla Aviation Academy in Aqaba, Jordan, the Middle East's only Joint Aviation Authorities-approved ground school.

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 ©Emirates/CAE
Training local citizens is a priority for all the Gulf airlines