At Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, a group of aspiring airline pilots from the Middle East and Indian subcontinent are taking their first steps towards a career in an industry that urgently needs their services.
The would-be pilots are the inaugural intake on a new air transport pilot licence course being run jointly in the Arabian emirate by the UK's Cabair College of Air Training and Fujairah Aviation Academy, which began in earnest this week.
© Yu Ming
The 200h programme is recognised by Europe's aviation authorities and should produce 40-60 graduates this year, says Graham Austin, chief executive of Cranfield-based Cabair. Trainees will complete the bulk of the course in the UAE, with the final stages of their twin-engine and multi-crew flying in the UK. The venture plans to operate two twin-engine Diamond DA-42s and a simulator, plus up to six single-engine DA-40s.
Austin stresses the Gulf-based course is not a watered-down version of Cabair's existing syllabus. "It's a mirror image of what we offer in Cranfield and Valencia in Spain," he says. "It's not an economy programme. It's aimed at those who want a JAA [Joint Aviation Authorities] qualification, but at a more convenient location."
Although the majority of trainees will be self-funding, they will not have any trouble finding jobs in the region, according to Austin.
He says: "There are huge employers on their doorstep, and when we started down this road just over a year ago we hadn't even considered India. Now that market has burgeoned."
Unlike participants in Cabair's European courses, many of the Gulf trainees will be new to aviation. "Some will have done some flying, but they are from cultures and countries where they may not have had the opportunity to have flown a light aircraft," Austin says.