Upgraded Ethiopian training centre to feature 787 simulator

Addis Ababa
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Ethiopian Airlines is planning a $42 million upgrade of its training facilities and, with the arrival of its first Boeing 787, is looking to acquire a simulator for the type.

The Addis Ababa-based carrier is planning to invest in new buildings, facilities and up to 10 new training aircraft for its academy, which offers courses for pilots, cabin crew and technicians, as well as management training.

Speaking to ATI in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines executive vice-president for strategic business units Kinfe Kahssaye said: "To meet growing demand we are investing in and restructuring the academy. Our objective is to have competitive aviation academy in this region, serving Ethiopian Airlines, sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the market."

He says funding for the restructuring is being finalised and the project should be completed within three years.

Ethiopian is in negotiations to secure up to 10 single-engined training aircraft, including four options. Cessna's 172TD and Diamond Aircraft's DA40 are in the running. The training academy currently operates 11 Avgas-powered Cessna 172s, but it is looking to replace these with diesel-powered aircraft owing to Avgas supply, cost and environmental issues.

The talks with Diamond are more advanced, with potential deliveries in four to five months, but the training school is already familiar with Cessna operations. Ethiopian will make a decision in three or four months. The school is also evaluating acquisition of three twin-engined Diamond Aircraft DA42s.

As a separate investment, Kahssaye says Ethiopian is looking to acquire a 787 simulator for arrival in 2011. "We have ordered a number of aircraft and considering our growth we will need more, so a simulator is going to be required. The deal has not been signed yet."

Ethiopian is looking to spin off its training activities into an independent subsidiary, after which it would be open to equity investor approaches, but Kahssaye says the unit will remain integrated with the airline until the investment has been completed. He adds that Ethiopian would retain a controlling stake in any equity partnership.