Go Commercial: Industry Round-up

For our annual round-up, Pilot contacted leading UK flight training organisations from across the industry; CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, Caledonian Advanced Pilot Training, CTC Aviation and Tayside Aviation. Providing a wide range of training, these four companies offer a broad picture of the industry in 2014.

CAE Oxford Aviation Academy says that this year has seen a growing demand among UK and European airlines for newly trained pilots. “The employment prospects for professionally pre-assessed and well-trained pilot graduates are the best we have seen in a decade,” a spokesman tells Pilot. “Typically, flight schools that offer job placement support to their graduates manage a dynamic pool of graduates who are in the job search process. This year the number of our graduates exiting the pool through job placement well exceeds the number completing training.”

CTC Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Petteford also offers an upbeat assessment: “The financial crisis was tough for everybody, but I think job prospects today are the best they’ve been for quite some time. Our graduates are getting placements within three months — some are getting type ratings within three weeks. Prospects are good across Europe at the moment.”

Of course, commercial flying is not all about jets and airlines. “In the helicopter industry, the average age of pilots is quite high so we foresee a large number of retirements in the very near future,” says Phil Croucher, Head of Training and Chief Ground Instructor at rotary-wing specialist Caledonian Advanced Pilot Training. “The shortage at the moment seems to be people with mid-range hours. There are lots of low-time and high-time people but not many in the middle.

“The manufacturers are also predicting high requirement outside of that purely based on aircraft sales. I know of at least one airline that is now accepting fixed-wing pilots with just a JETOC course, where previously they were expected to pay for their own type ratings and company checks. There has been an underlying shortage ever since Air Europe went down — it has just been masked by continuous recessions.”

CAE Oxford says it has seen the largest demand for its graduates among low-cost and regional carriers such as Ryanair, easyJet and bmi regional. “Without a doubt the low-cost carriers offer the most opportunities because they’re seeing the most growth,” adds Anthony Petteford. “I wouldn’t rule out legacy airlines though. BA is also going through growth at the moment.”

Scottish-based Tayside Aviation tends to focus on meeting the needs of Loganair or other airlines with local bases. “However, we also provide training to students from Hong Kong, sponsored by GAPAN Hong Kong, for Dragonair and Cathay Pacific,” says MD Jim Watt. Great airline growth is predicted in Asia. In the helicopter world, the demand continues to be driven by North Sea and offshore operations, according to Phil Croucher.

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MODULAR OR INTEGRATED?

For years there have been two basic routes to the Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence, the more ‘do-it-yourself’ modular route (where students tackle the various elements one by one, often at different training providers) and the integrated route, which is more akin to signing on for a college course. Modular training is far less expensive and to many mature individuals it is the only viable option, but it may not lead to a job so easily. CTC’s Anthony Petteford is clear on this; “The emphasis is on structured, integrated courses. Airlines prefer structured training. If you draw a parallel with other professions that require a similar level of academic ability — e.g. doctors or dentists — they don’t make up their courses as they go along.”

Jim Watt would beg to differ: “There was certainly, pre-Credit Crunch, the understanding that the integrated route was preferred, but there is now recognition that the modular route has an edge, in that it entails more flying experience. The modular-trained pilot’s attitude-flying is better and offers an advantage in loss of control incidents”.

CAE Oxford notes that, for airlines that are interested in launching cadet programmes, the emphasis is beginning to shift more towards the Multi-crew Pilot Licence (MPL). “However, cadet programmes require airlines to accurately forecast their pilot requirements two to three years in advance. Not all airlines are in a position to look this far ahead, so we expect to see continued demand for those holding frozen [i.e. yet to be validated by experience] ATPLs”

Jim Watt says that trainee numbers have yet to pick up. “Again, due to the Credit Crunch there has been a drop in number, and right now CPL and IR training remains low. That said we have seen a considerable increase in the number of private pilots with the aspirations to become commercial pilots and we anticipate an increase in overall training provision, increasing year on year over the next ten to fifteen years.”

CAE Oxford hasn’t yet seen numbers increase either, “but we are seeing an increase in the proportion of cadets undergoing training on airline cadet programmes. Over the past few months the Mortgage Market Review has had an impact on banks providing loans to self-sponsored students. As a result the average time taken to secure a loan has increased and this has delayed the enrolment of some students coming into the academy. This seems to be working its way through the system now and the number of self-sponsored students scheduled to enter the academy over the next couple of months is increasing in line with the growing demand for pilots from our partner airlines. Both Boeing and Airbus have published projections on the number of pilots needed for the next twenty years or so.”

Speaking for CTC, Anthony Petteford says “we have seen an improvement in the number. As the market recovers, people become more cheerful and consider investment in training. But what we have seen is that it’s not getting any easier for individuals to undertake training. Although the airlines are getting more involved there is still a huge financial burden — it’s the sheer magnitude of the price they have to pay. There needs to be more support for students outside of the airlines.”

AND FINALLY, A LITTLE BIT OF ADVICE

There is general agreement on how prospective commercial pilots should go about choosing training route and school(s). “They need to do their research, both into the industry and the training providers available to them,” says Petteford, “and they need to go through the assessment module to make sure that they have the ability before they start spending significant amounts of money.”

“Visiting a number of preferred training organisations is also a must, says CAE Oxford. “Once you visit, the one that is right for you will stand out.”

“If you want to work in the UK , then train in the UK,” urges Jim Watt of Tayside. “It will always look on the face of it to be cheaper abroad but not so much in the long run.” Finally, CTC’s Anthony Petteford offers a tip for those considering the modular training route: “Make sure that you take all your modules through the same provider so that airlines can readily audit the quality of the training you’ve received.”

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