ST Aerospace is diversifying into the commercial pilot training business, with the company starting a joint venture to offer courses in Singapore, Australia and China for the fast-growing Asia-Pacific market.

The partnership with Aviation Training (Singapore), which will be called ST Aviation Training Academy (STATA), will begin operations in October with a capital investment of $5.2 million. It will be based at Singapore's Seletar airport, which is being redeveloped by the country into a regional aerospace hub.

In its first year, the joint venture aims to train 75 students for the commercial pilot licence and instrument rating. It then plans to recruit 200 students by 2009 to be trained in the multi-crew pilot licence (MPL), which was introduced last November by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

"The new MPL provides the aviation industry with an opportunity to train pilots directly for co-pilot duties, allowing a pilot to exercise the privileges of a co-pilot in commercial air transport on multi-crew aircraft," says ST Aero. "The MPL training programme offers a significant improvement and relies more on flight simulators to train students from the start to function as crew members on specific types of aircraft they will be operating."

It adds that while trainees take 24-30 months to graduate under a typical CPL, the MPL course would take only about 12-15 months. The cadet pilots will train on Cessna 172R/172S, Piper Arrow PA28R, Piper Seminole PA44, King Air C90, and will be licensed to fly the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.

The first centre will be an ab initio training facility in Australia. The Aviation Training Academy Australia will be constructed near Ballarat airport in Victoria by mid-2008. Next, a flight simulation centre will be set up near Seletar airport by early 2009.

It will also team up with the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics' International Flight Training Academy in Nanjing, China. STATA and the university will jointly develop the infrastructure and training programmes to train selected undergraduates as pilots.

These cadet pilots will undergo part of their training programme in Nanjing before proceeding for the flight training phases at Australia.

Several other groups are also seeking to capitalise on the strong demand for pilots in fast-growing Asia-Pacific markets such as China and India. Australia's Qantas Airways, for example, said in June that it plans to establish a new pilot training arm to supply cockpit crew for its own operations as well as for other airlines.

Source: Flight International