Sunday, August 5, 2012

Spotlight on pilot graduates

The unemployed flying school graduates issue has been thrust into the spotlight for a while now and it certainly has caught the attention of many in the country.
There are over 1,100 of them out there waiting for a window of opportunity but none seem to be coming their way, at least for now.

There are two ways to become a pilot either pay for your own training and hope to secure employment with an airline; or undergo cadet pilot training that is paid by the airline.

For the latter, the job is assured, but the set back is the cadet pilot is being bonded with the airline for 10-15 years.

 The actual number of unemployed graduates is not known, though a figure of 1,100 has been bandied around. To ascertain the exact number, the Department of Civil Aviation has recently set up a website for the graduates to register with them.

The number of cadets under training is said to be over 550 and there are five training schools operating today even though eight licences had been dished out.
What led them to be unemployed is a result of a multitude of factors.

The aviation industry is unique in itself as its business is very seasonal and cyclical and linked to the economy. In boom times, there is demand for pilots but when times turn sour, airlines scale back on recruitment.

“The situation arose because the authorities did not address the trends' issue, which is the primary indicator for success and failure of the entire aviation industry,” says Global Flight Sdn Bhd aviation consultant Norudin Abd Majid.

He says the trends were obvious but the continued training of surplus pilots is allowed to continue . “Had there been monitoring of trends and appropriate action taken to limit supply and demand of pilots, then the industry would not have been in such as state,'' he says.

He says that “there are checks and balances in place but the follow through may not have been stringent.”

He sees this as a structural issue and calls for the revamp for the way pilots are trained and employed.
The longevity of a pilot in the service of an airline in an issue. There is a school of thought that pilots should retire once they are of 60 years of age to give way for younger pilots.

Keeping pilots who are above 60 can be costly for the airline and he adds that there are far too many foreign pilots in the employment of the local airlines, said to be above 150. A reduction in the number of foreign pilots can help locals get jobs, says another expert.

The other factor why graduates who have funded their own training cannot get jobs is because they have too few flying hours and have no flying expertise .

There is a huge demand for pilots in China, Indonesia and the Middle East but the minimum flying hours needed is 500 to 700, whereas graduates have less than 300 when they leave flight school.
Even if they are employed by an airline, the airline has to fork out between RM60,000 to RM100,000 to train them for at least six months for the aircraft type training, be it A320, A330 or B737 aircraft.

“That is the missing link, the aircraft type rating that the graduates do not have and that is why they cannot even apply for jobs outside the country. To do that training, they need to fork out more money and how many can afford that?” Norudin says, adding that graduates need aircraft type training to be marketable globally.

This is where he is hoping that the local airlines will come in and help.

“If the local airlines can employ these graduates, say for a period of two to three years, let them undergo the aircraft type of training and accumulate the flying hours, the graduates will then be in a better position to market their services globally. For now, they are stuck with limited experience and hours,” he says.

But will there be takers for that?

AirAsia has said it would assist, and one pilot school, Asia Pacific Flight Training, has began working with some Indonesian carriers to export some of our graduates to acqui re the aircraft type training.

To avoid the recurrence of oversupply, experts are of the view that the authorities have to do more and they suggested that:

> The ratio of flight instructors to students be reworked and each training school should have an adequate number of serviceable aircraft for training sessions;

> DCA must make it mandatory for anyone who wants to be a pilot to sit for competency tests, like those done by the airlines. They should monitor the intake of pilots and engineers as these are the people who require certification;

> The type-rated qualification for aircraft type should be part of the entire training to be pilot and increase the minimum flying hours so that Malaysian flying school graduates are marketable globally;

> Cap the number of licences for flying schools.
All this points to a total revamp of the training industry, failing which the same problems will keep occurring in four to five years time, says Norudin.

Article taken from TheStar

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