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Global aviation sector set for turbulent times

Dubai, December 3, 2011

The global aviation sector is all set for turbulent times, with an escalating shortage of pilots, which has raised safety concerns and is playing havoc with flight schedules, experts have warned.

The scramble to lure the best will intensify as fast-growing Middle East and other Asian airlines buy hundreds of new planes.

For safety-conscious travellers, that means sticking with the big, well-known airlines who can afford to lure the best staff as the scramble to fill the cockpit intensifies.

Warnings have been raised for several years of a pilot shortage in Asia, but the latest orders add to the urgency. The region is forecast to account for the lion's share of global aircraft deliveries over the next two decades.

Analysts point out that airlines in India, which already need about 2,000 pilots urgently, have signed up for 180 aircraft at the Dubai air show.

Last month, Indonesia's Lion Air ordered 230 Boeing 737s with options for 150 more.

Qatar Airways ordered at least 55 jets from Airbus while Emirates ordered 50 Boeing 777s. From 2011 to 2030, Boeing and Airbus both predict Asia will account for about a third of global aircraft deliveries worth a total of more than $1 trillion.

To keep up with growth and replace retiring pilots, the International Civil Aviation Organisation forecasts Asia will need 229,676 pilots over the next two decades, up from 50,344 last year.

In the most likely scenario, Asia will be short by more than 9,000 pilots a year.

'Never in human history have we seen a time when two billion people will enter the middle class and demand air travel,' says William Voss, president of the Washington, DC-based Flight Safety Foundation. 'That time is now,' he added.

Emirates has announced plans to set up a dedicated $109 million flight training centre in Dubai that will be able to train up to 400 students at a time. Earlier this year, Canadian flight-training company CAE said it was expanding its training centre in Zhuhai, China.

But Roei Ganzarski, Boeing's chief customer officer for flight services, warns that recruiting pilots will be a long-term problem for the aviation industry.

Training a commercial airline pilot takes up to three or four years. Trainees must obtain a Private Pilot's Licence and then a Commercial Pilot's Licence. Then they need an Air Transport Pilot's Licence which involves logging about 1,500 flying hours.

Once they're hired by an airline as a first officer, candidates need more time for additional conversion training for the type of aircraft they'll be flying, which could take another year.

Aviation industry executives say small airlines will be hit hardest because they can't compete with big, rich carriers.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Safety | aviation | Airlines | International Civil Aviation Organisation | pilot | Crisis |

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