Piper expects the pilot academy it is helping set up in the small Asian country of Brunei to open in early 2011 and operate a fleet of 15-20 trainers by the end of 2012.

Flightglobal reported in September 2009 that Piper was seeking to partner a pilot training firm to establish Brunei's first flying academy. Piper marketing director Jacqueline Carlon says the manufacturer is now negotiating with potential training providers from Australia, Europe and North America that earlier this year answered its request for proposals.

She says one provider should be selected for the project this summer and in the meantime Piper is finalising a lease agreement on a hangar that will house the academy's initial fleet.

Carlon says Piper now aims to open the academy in the first quarter of 2011. She says the hangar will not be ready earlier as renovations are required.

The academy's first four aircraft - two PiperSports, one Warrior and one Seneca - are already in Brunei. Carlon says these four aircraft are initially being used for demonstration flights throughout Asia, organised by Piper's new Brunei office. Piper, which was sold last year to Brunei government-backed investment firm Imprimis, says there is growing interest in the region for its trainers.

The Brunei academy is expected to meet growing demand from Asian and Middle Eastern airlines, including government-owned Royal Brunei Airlines, for new pilots. Carlon expects 75% of the students to be fully sponsored by airlines.

She expects 10-15% of the students will be self-funded from outside Brunei and the remainder will be local. Carlon says Piper is forecasting to deliver 15-20 aircraft to the academy within the first two years.

Carlon says Piper is confident the cost of flight training in Brunei will be competitive with other countries in the region as the government is very supportive of general aviation.

She says Piper has not yet decided on a business model for the academy but the school may end up being jointly owned by a training firm and Imprimis rather than Piper.

Source: Flight International