The Experts Say…
Seeking to become a commercial pilot can be a calculated risk – especially if you take the modular route – so what are the current employment prospects like? We asked some of the leading professional flight training providers for their views and tips.
With the financial markets recovering at differing rates, still impacting economic activity in many countries, and with uncertainty surrounding a post-brexit UK, is this a good time to consider becoming a commercial pilot? It’s a big investment in terms of time, money and dedication; will this be worth it and suitably rewarded? We sought the views of a number of training providers.
Our first question was about employment prospects, and the good news is that all respondents agreed that these are good both now and for the foreseeable future, particularly on fixed wing. Richard Gentil of Naples Flight Center says the cyclical nature of hiring pilots has changed. “Both Boeing and Airbus agree that between now and 2035 they need 617,000 trained and hired just to meet the needs of the nearly 40,000 aircraft being built during that time.” Alex O’loughlin of FTA Global adds that “104,000 of these will be required in Europe” and that “supply is not keeping up with demand… A number of our graduates secure pilot roles within weeks of completing our courses.” Another factor fuelling this demand is identified by Anthony Petteford, Vice President & Principal of L3 Airline Academy: “A significant number of current airline pilots (born during the baby-boom) are now reaching their retirement age, further stimulating demand.”
There is further consensus on which regions and industries may offer the best prospects. Jordi Mateu of EAS Barcelona says, “There’s no doubt that Asia-pacific, with China at the top, creates one of the largest volumes of work [and] the Middle East and Latin America are also experiencing a growing need for pilots.” Anthony Petteford and Richard Gentil agree. Anthony cited Boeing and Airbus forecasts that “forty per cent of new pilots between 2017 and 2036 will fly in Asia and a further eighteen per cent and seventeen per cent respectively will be needed in North America and Europe.” Richard split out actual figures, such as Asia 248,000, North America 103,000 and Middle East 58,000, adding that “China has companies willing to pay $400,000 a year tax free for B737 captains.”
Isobel Hall of Kura Aviation said: “Our pilots find work in scheduled airlines, with chartered airlines, regional airlines, short haul and long haul operators, with cargo operators and with business jet operators. Ryanair, easyjet and Norwegian have been recruiting heavily for sometime and are set to continue doing so.” On the helicopter side, Phil Croucher of Caledonian Advanced Pilot Training sees more employment activity in “the more obscure areas, such as crop spraying.” And that the most promising rotary sector is “Utility helicopter flying – there are several people freelancing out there.”
We asked if the type of training has changed emphasis recently and whether FTOS have seen a difference in the numbers of individuals coming forward to train. Jordi Mateu of EAS Barcelona comments, “The quality of the training has gained higher importance in recent years.
Excellence is what matters. Technological advances in commercial aviation requires a constant investment in the latest materials, resources and highly-qualified teaching staff, capable of delivering the highest quality training in line with the requirements of air operators. We’ve noticed a greater influx of students from central and northern Europe… as well as the Middle East and South America. The latter are interested in obtaining a licence as prestigious as the European EASA.”
Alex O’loughlin at FTA Global agrees, saying FTA now provides both integrated and modular training and has forged relationships with companies such as Kura Aviation and Virtual Aviation, who deliver specialist, airline preparation including enhanced MCC/JOC courses. She adds “The airlines are employing more and
“Commitment... by individuals who ‘took the risk’ is paying off”
more pilots from a mix of reputable training providers that have completed different types of training.” Isobel Hall of Kura adds, “Modular trained pilots were perceived to be taking a greater risk and I think the high level of motivation, resilience and professional commitment demonstrated by individuals who ‘took the risk’ is now paying off.” Interestingly, Alex points out that the CAA is now issuing fewer licences but says that the number of students enrolled at FTA has increased. “Graduates recommend our training to others, to such an extent that we are almost fully booked for the next twelve months. Most of our students join our courses because of recommendations.”
Naples Flight Center’s Richard Gentil highlights a change due to technology, whereby students today follow “the magenta line. They want EFIS like the Garmin G1000 for their PPL training but the G1000 does everything for them so they are not learning the basics of being a pilot. They do not learn situational awareness and do not learn to navigate.” He claims airlines have stopped giving simulator tests in the USA as “too many applicants were failing”. Naples Flight Center places more emphasis on training without GPS on cross-country flights so students learn to navigate and improve
You will log many hours on simulators - this is EAS Barcelona’s FNPT II sim