ATR faces some tough decisions in Asia over what direction to take in pilot training.
The turboprop manufacturer already has a simulator training centre in Bangkok called the Asian ATR Training Centre, a joint venture with simulator manufacturer Thales, but ATR operator Bangkok Airways plans to start an ATR simulator training centre in Thailand, while Malaysia Airlines has established one in Kuala Lumpur.
Bangkok Airways and MAS want ATR to be a partner in their centres. Bangkok Airways president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth says the carrier has started discussions with ATR about a partnership and has said publicly that the shortage of pilots in the region creates an opportunity for Bangkok Airways to establish a separate standalone business.
The carrier early next year plans to open the Bangkok Flight Academy, a flying school in the central Thai city of Sukhothai that will provide ab initio training using 25 single-engined aircraft and two jet aircraft.
MAS, meanwhile, has embarked on its own training initiative. It has installed a CAE ATR 72-500 flight simulator at its Subang training centre and has started training pilots for its new regional airline Firefly, which is due to receive its first ATR 72-500 in August and have five by year-end.
The centre will also train pilots for MASWings, which will receive is first ATR 72 later this year. In addition, it has Berjaya Air, Cebu Pacific Air, Deccan and Kingfisher Airlines as third-party customers, says Firefly head of flight operations Roland Thomas, who is overseeing the ATR training programme.
He says the ATR centre in Kuala Lumpur has applied for European Aviation Safety Agency certification as a type-rating training organisation to help with its efforts to secure third-party business.
He says some of ATR's training personnel from France are working at the centre and that MAS wants the aircraft-maker to be an equity partner in the centre so it can draw on ATR's expertise.