Abu Dhabi's Etihad is launching a worldwide cadet scheme for aspiring first officers as fast-growing airlines in the Middle East and Asia battle to recruit enough pilots.
It will complement Etihad's existing cadet programme for UAE nationals, which started last year as part of a campaign to convince more locals to train as pilots with the flag carrier.
Although global demand means the pool of experienced first officers is rapidly draining, this is believed to be one of the first times a major carrier has promoted a scheme to train and offer jobs to foreign youngsters with no flying experience.
Etihad plans to launch its first course around June, with a group of 12 would-be pilots. Two further intakes of 12 will follow later in the year. The trainees - school-leavers or college graduates - will move to Abu Dhabi where they will do around 18 months of ab initio training at Horizon Flight Academy, followed by several months of instruction and line-flying under supervision as second officers. They will pay back their fees over eight years as bonded pilots.
The airline, which is expecting a "massive response" to its first advertisements, is looking for "people with a passion who are committed to being a pilot as a long-term career", says Etihad's executive vice-president operations Richard Hill. "We will be selecting from the top percentile of applicants - the cream of the crop," he adds.
A total of 48 students will join the separate scheme for UAE nationals in the first year. The airline is keeping the two groups apart initially because of different skills sets and competence in English, but they will be integrated as soon as they begin their flying careers. "We want to make sure there is no divisiveness," says Hill.
Etihad has a fleet of 37 aircraft and will take delivery of 16 more by 2011, including seven Airbus A330s and four A320s Dubai-based rival Emirates says it has no plans to launch a similar scheme, although, like Etihad, it runs a cadet programme for nationals.* Flight International will be covering Etihad's plans in detail in our Careers in the Middle East supplement with our 8 April issue.
Separately, the carrier as a major sponsor of Ferrari F1 this season the team unveiled its 2008 livery at the Australian Grand Prix.