Brussels, Belgium-based Sabena Flight Academy and the India-headquartered infrastructure group GMR have just signed an agreement to set up a pilot training joint venture company at the new Rajiv Gandhi International airport, Hyderabad by January 2009.

Sabena says the aviation academy will offer complete training packages for pilots, cabin crew, engineers and mechanics. Training will also be on offer for airport operations staff such as passenger handling personnel and ramp services agents, it says.

More than €80 million ($113 million) will be invested over the next three years in accommodation for more than 200 trainees a year, six full-flight simulators, cabin trainers and engineering tooling, says GMR.

The new Hyderabad airport, in which GMR owns the largest shareholding and which is under construction, will be one of the first privately owned airports in the country. It is expected to begin operation in March 2008.

Sabena Flight Academy chief executive Jack Waldeyer says: "We are extremely proud of being selected by the GMR Group for establishing jointly a state of the art aviation academy in India."

He says that Sabena is now training more than 200 Indian pilots at its Arizona, USA base, and it already provides full-flight simulator training for several Indian carriers at its main base at Brussels Zaventem airport.

T Srinagesh, chief operating officer of GMR Hyderabad International airport, says: "It is our vision of the airport that it should catalyse an aviation cluster at Hyderabad and accelerate the economic development and employment generation in the state."