British Airways (BA) has launched its largest pilot recruitment campaign in more than a decade as it gears up for an influx of new equipment into its fleet.

The carrier plans to increase its current 3,200-strong pilot force by more than 25% by 2016. With aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 due to come into service, "there will be a reshuffling of pilots who want to go and fly our new fleets. This will leave gaps in fleets of our existing types", said a BA spokesman.

The airline is launching a new programme to train new airline pilots as well as recruiting crew from other carriers and launching an initiative with the UK armed forces to provide military pilots with new career paths.

British Airways pilot training
 © British Airways

Around half of BA's 800 new pilots will come via the new BA Future Pilots Programme. Acknowledging that the cost of training from scratch to become an airline pilot is around £100,000 ($155,000) is a deterrent to prospective pilots, the airline is prepared to guarantee loans from other bodies to those wanting to enter the profession.

"By removing the barrier of initial training costs and making it more accessible to a wider range of people, we hope to be able to attract the very best talent out there," said BA head of pilot recruitment Captain Robin Glover.

Training will take place at three sites: Oxford Aviation Academy and CTC Aviation Training in the UK, plus Flight Training Europe in Spain. Those successfully completing their training will be offered jobs with BA.

Although, like many airlines, BA has always recruited a certain number of ex-military pilots, there is a possibility of a surge in outflow from the armed forces as the effects of the UK's 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review work through.

This has already seen entire fleets of aircraft - such as the BAE Systems Harrier and Nimrod - taken out of service and more redundancies are anticipated if further defence budget cuts go ahead.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news