While the rest of the world is facing the issue of pilot surplus, aviation markets in the Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa are seriously concerned with how to deal with the unstoppably growing pilot demand. These culturally, economically and socially distinct regions apply specific methods to fulfil the requirements for professional aviation personnel training programs.

Flightglobal.com states that the Southeast Asia-based carriers have an increasingly visible presence in the aviation industry. As a result, both the already established names and several new players look to benefit from the growing demand. Currently the existing airlines in the Southeast Asia are rapidly expanding their activities in the business areas such as pilot training and the production of aircraft components thus aiming to become tier-one or tier-two suppliers themselves.

In Singapore, where Air Show 2012 recently has taken a place, the development of SAP (Special Assistance Plan) worth $60 million is expected to create 10,000 jobs and contribute $3.3 billion a year to the local economy. Airlines are also feeling the squeeze. Boeing experts estimate that the Asian-Pacific region alone will require 183,200 pilots over the next 20 years. There is a widespread concern that pilot training schools will fail to keep up the pace with the expanding airlines and deliver enough flight crew with the required capabilities.

In order to tackle the problem effectively several airlines have set up in-house training schools. Thai Airways is set to invest Bt 980,000 ($780,000) into its own pilot and ground crew training school to support its long-term growth. The low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific and the CAE have also started building an aviation training centre at the Clark Freeport Zone in the Philippines. The centre, named the Philippine Academy for Aviation Training, will begin operations in the third quarter of this year and have the capacity to train more than 2,500 pilots a year.

According to the Gulfnews.com, while Asia is step by step establishing its own pilot training infrastructure, one of the major challenges for the rapidly growing aviation sector in the Middle East is and will continue to be the ability to attract and, more importantly, retain a sufficient number of appropriately skilled people. The struggle for talent has affected all employees, but especially the highly-skilled personnel like captains and engineers from more mature foreign markets. Technical aviation skills are not easily or quickly transferable; therefore airlines compete for more or less the same pool of talent in their own countries.

The Middle East aviation industry currently recruits skilled staff from international (and more mature) aviation markets such as Australia, the UK, mainland Europe, North America and Asia thus bridging the gap caused by the rapid expansion processes. The fast-paced growth in the region affords them financial muscle that makes local airlines exceptionally attractive employers. A method that can be applied by industry players to retain and attract skilled personnel involves using the existing highly qualified employees as trainers that can pass on their knowledge to newer staff members.

In the meantime, Africa is faced with a critical aviation personnel deficit. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with offices in Eastern and Southern Africa, maintains that currently the continent is in urgent need of about 1,500 aviation operators, 600 aircraft maintenance personnel and 4000 airport operators.

The recent report states that 67 percent of aviation training centres in Africa have less than 10 instructors, while only four institutions employ over 40 instructors. The data was collected from 75 respondents in 37 of the 54 African countries and presented at the three-day Pan-African Civil Aviation Training Conference in Cape Town last year.

To counter the problem the conference delegates sought to harmonize training standards across Africa and come up with an Association of Training Organizations, Centres of Excellence and a Training Advisory Board, among other institutions of mutual interest.

The aviation industry needs to acknowledge the generational and technological changes shaping the lives of today’s young people and adapt aviation training methodologies, philosophies, tools and even the instructors to these new realities.

A thorough analysis of culturally, economically and socially different regions has shown that different countries have chosen different methods to cope with the lack of aviation personnel. The Southeast Asia-based carriers have decided to invest money in establishing their own aviation training infrastructures, while the companies in the Middle East are trying to attract foreign experienced professionals whose knowledge might be used as the background for training local specialists. In the meantime, Africa is focused on creating relevant institutions and regulations aimed at unifying the currently obscure aviation standards in the continent. Which method is the best? The next 5 years will show which markets can keep up with the pace of unstoppably growing aviation business the best.

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