Europe's largest regional carrier Flybe has just celebrated the graduation of the first UK cabin crew ever to have nationally recognised professional skills.

The 21 crew have completed a three-month national vocational qualification (NVQ2) in "aviation operations in the air", recognised by the UK Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

This development follows a series of pioneering training initiatives by the airline, for which the foundations were laid last year and which could lead to a regeneration of the UK national skills training system as it applies to aviation.

As well as the cabin crew initiative, a month ago Flybe launched a four-year engineering apprenticeship with Exeter College, combined with practical work in its hangars at Flybe's Exeter airport engineering base, leading to licensed aircraft engineer status.

A licensed aircraft engineer at Flybe could be earning £30,000 ($52,000) a year on graduation, says the company's director of safety, quality and training Simon Witts. The company was swamped with applications for the course, for which the carrier chose 33 trainees.

The young engineers will undergo two years of study at Exeter College before the hands-on training at Flybe, which makes this a course with a higher academic content than most apprenticeships.

In January this year Flybe was recognised by the QCA as a qualifications awarding body for courses up to degree level for its own trainees.

Meanwhile, Flybe has also just announced the imminent launch of the UK's first multi-crew pilot licence course, for which the airline hopes to gain recognition at an academic as well as a pilot licence level, which would be another UK and European first if it were approved.

Previous attempts to set up as an NVQ covering the extensive knowledge skillset that pilots need foundered for lack of industry support, and because of the complexity of acquiring approval.

Source: Flight International