IN anticipation of a shortfall of pilots in the next 10 years, low-cost carrier operator Cebu Air Inc. (CEB) has embarked on a free training program for prospective pilots, anticipating to graduate about 250 aviators in the next five years.
Lance Y. Gokongwei, who sits as president at the airline, said the carrier will be investing $25 million to train the cadet-pilots to become full-fledged first officers and eventually captains.
The basic qualification required is for prospective applicants to be a Filipino, college graduate and must be proficient in English.
Gokongwei said candidates need not worry about shelling-out money for tuition to a flying school as the airline company that operates under the trade name “Cebu Pacific Air” will shoulder the cost first, and pay the cost of the program through salary deduction over the next 10 years.
The estimated cost of the program is from $2 million to $2.5 million.
“The entire program will be financed by Cebu Pacific, with successful cadet-piots guaranteed employment with CEB upon graduation,” Gokongwei said at the launch of his program on Tuesday.
He added 16 candidates will be chosen per batch and CEB will send three batches per year. The screening process for applicants begins with online screening, followed by an on-site screening for core skills and pilot aptitude tests, among other examination.
He said a fee of AU$425 (P17,000) will be charged from each canditate. Successful candidates will be sent to the Flight Training Adelaide campus in Australia for 52 weeks. The schooling will require candidates to undergo learning modules and training, leading to a diploma in Aviation.
“The cadet-pilot will then move on to training on a flight simulator, and then flight time on an actual aircraft to completer the licensing requirements to become a commercial pilot,” Gokongwei said.
Once they have returned to Manila, the candidates are then subjected to four weeks of training and a battery of examination conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to obtain a pilot’s license.
The training program will take off on the first months of 2018, according to Gokongwei.
CEB Vice President for Flights Operations Sam Avila II said the Asia-Pacific region is where there’s rapid growth by the middle class, fueling demand for low-cost air travel.
“Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing region for air travel, and airlines will require 180,000 first officers to be trained as airline captains.”
Avila added a corresponding increase in demand for thousands of flight crews or cabin attendants would also be felt within the next decade. He cited a study by the Canadian Aviation Electronics that said about 255,000 pilots must enter the global commercial aviation profession to meet growing passenger demand and replace retiring pilots.
In the Philippines the dearth in qualified pilots is being exacerbated by piracy, where rich Middle Eastern countries, not wanting to spend on training, enticed Filipino pilots with huge salaries and many perks, according to aviation sources.
Sometimes, these airlines provide the cash to a prospective pilot to pay for the remaining months or years of his contract to speed up his retirement with a specific air carrier. Once released from the contract, the pilot then proceeds to be employed by the Middle East carrier, with higher salary, in dollars to boot.
It was this technique that was employed a few years ago in the Philippines that led to a hemorrhage of qualified pilots.
When asked whether CEB will allow this kind of arrangement of paying for the rest of the contract, Avila said they will allow it. However, he added he does not expect their pilots to be enticed so easily because, “The salary we pay is commensurate with what foreign airlines are offering.”
CEB has a current fleet of 59 aircraft, comprised of one Airbus A319, 35 A320, eight A330, eight ATR 72-500 turbo-jet aircraft.
Between 2017 and 2022, CEB expects delivery of seven Airbus A321ceo, 32 Airbus newo and nine ATR 72-600 aircraft, according to Gokongwei.
The CEB network, including that of subsidiary Cebgo, reaches 37 domestic and 25 international destinations encompassing over 100 routes.
With Lorenz S. Marasigan