The proliferation of training establishments in the Gulf has created opportunities for those who want to work as instructors
Want to work in aviation the Gulf but not as a line pilot or engineer? Then how about using your skills and experience to teach others? The growth of the airline and business aviation market has led to an explosion in training facilities - from ab initio flying schools and engineering colleges to simulator centres and an aerospace university. All of them need instructors and teaching staff.
Emirates opened its training college near Dubai airport in 2001, offering pilot, cabin crew, engineering and flight operations training to the airline's employees and other students. Next to it, the Emirates-CAE Flight Training joint venture boasts 12 full-flight simulators, providing third-party training to Airbus and Boeing, business jet and helicopter pilots. CAE also runs a smaller facility in Doha, Qatar, and last year Etihad opened its training centre at Abu Dhabi airport.
Among the flight schools operating in the UAE, Horizon Flight Academy at Al Ain is the most established at five years old, starting as a helicopter training school but branching into fixed wing last year with five Cessna 172s. Most of its students are UAE nationals: among other partnerships it runs Etihad's cadet programme. Dubai Aerospace Enterprise has also launched a flying school as part of its DAE University. Based in Ras Al Khaimah, the DAE Flight Academy is taking delivery of a fleet of up to 40 Cirrus SR22s and 12 Eclipse 500 very light jets as its first students begin to train this month. The school aims to satisfy not only demand for pilot training in the UAE but - helped by year-round blue, uncongested skies - attract students from Europe and Asia's emerging markets.
Emirates-CAE Flight Training says it is looking for instructors who "have a lot of experience" - at least 15,000h including 10,000 of command - to train 25,000 pilots each year. It employs around 30 instructors - flying in freelances to cope with peaks in demand - many former airline pilots in their fifties or sixties, says managing director Walter Visser. The company is also happy to hire younger pilots and "offer them a career path" as an instructor within the CAE network.
However, just as airlines and business aviation operators struggle to find pilots with the right credentials, so too does the training sector. "For some platforms such as the Airbus A320 it is tough," says Visser. "We manage, but it is not without efforts."
There are many attractions to an instructor career, maintains Capt Ahmed Elnadi, head of training. "Most people move into training because it is rewarding. We attract people who are passionate about sharing their experience with younger generations," he says. For some it is a chance to continue in aviation after the compulsory retirement age for line pilots. "Sometimes coming to a halt is very difficult for an active pilot. Training is a good vehicle to continue doing what you love," he says.
Like other recruiters, ECFT plays on the appeal of Dubai, stressing the attractions on offer which give residents the chance to hook up with cultural and sporting activities organised by their national community, from ice hockey to amateur dramatics.
Although like most training providers, ECFT operates its simulators continuously, an instructor's job is less intense than a long-haul pilot. "We offer the sort of package of hours and scheduling where there is time to enjoy life with your family," says Visser. "We also address issues like accommodation, transport, medical care, schooling and life insurance, making it a very mature package."