Student pilots from Irish carrier Aer Lingus have begun ab initio training at Western Michigan University's (WMU) School of Aviation Sciences at Battle Creek.

British Airways students will begin training at WMU in March. The University is negotiating an ab initio contract with a third airline, which would take its student intake to the planned total of 96-100 a year.

WMU has UK Civil Aviation Authority approval to provide pilot training to the CAA's CAP 509 standard. The first course began in October 1997, with seven self-funded students. The first group of Aer Lingus students entered training in mid-January, and a second batch will follow in March. BA's second group of students will enter training at WMU in May.

BA students will receive full CAP 509 training, including some 200h of flying. Aer Lingus pupils, however, will complete a "hybrid" course, combining elements of CAP 509 and European Joint Aviation Authorities training standards. The course includes 180h flying - 50h of that with the student pilot in command. WMU says that the hybrid course "-moves in the direction" of pending JAA flightcrew-licensing standards.

WMU has bought 16 new Cessna 172Rs for its ab initio course, with deliveries to be completed in March. Aerobatic training is provided in an Extra 300L, and a second is to be delivered in March. Some 10h of multi-crew training is provided in the "glass-cockpit" Mooney M20R, five of which have been purchased. Twin-engined training is provided in the Piper Seneca, with the final 10h in the UK at the British Aerospace Flying College in Prestwick, Scotland.

WMU does not plan to be a major player in the international-airline ab initio market, but wants to be ready when US airlines can no longer find sufficient ex-military or ex-regional pilots. Then, WMU believes, US airlines will have to begin ab initio training.

BA has awarded its largest-ever ab initio pilot-training contract. UK-based Oxford Air Training School has been tasked with training more than 300 pilots over four years. They are the first of BA's flightcrew to be trained to the new European Joint Aviation Regulations (Flight-Crew Licensing standard). The contract is worth about £13 million ($21.6 million). BA has also placed a smaller ab initio pilot-training contract with Cabair College of Air Training in the UK.

Source: Flight International