Who will fly the planes? UAE to shop for Pilots in Europe?

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways will not have the pilots necessary to fly the airplanes ordered this week in multi-billion dollar deals unless there are changes in pilot training, aviation industry experts have warned.
This is a global challenge that spans all the continents impacted by the recent recession. Rising fuel costs have deterred students from pilot training as getting that first seat as a co-pilot has been a nightmare as all employers fish in a dwindling pool called experienced pilots. The result is a sharp reduction in  the number of pilots coming through aviation schools.
Many are trying to tackle the problem but the approach is rarely global or cohesive and akin to the little boy with his finger in the dyke. We all know what happened and the damn of demand will burst unless a solution is found in the immediate future. The alternative will see airlines recruit pilots from other regions and, in turn, create a shortage in those markets. We believe the Middle Eastern airlines will come shopping in Europe and the USA but are likely to be disappointed.
China is already leading an aggressive recruitment drive but demand will increase, not only from the Middle East but as the other BRIC countries flex their wings and look for talent. Both Asia and Australia are struggling with shortages as well.
Chet Fuller, senior vice-president, Commercial Bombardier Aircraft, said the orders by the three Gulf giant airlines represented a need for 6,000 pilots. According to Fuller “the Middle East is minus 65%”on its requirements.
The quantity of trained pilots will continue to be impacted by indirect factors, including declining populations (excluding immigration) in Europe and North America where a greying of the pilot base is of concern. All known factors for several years but ignored by the industry during the worldwide recession.
Some grown-up strategic thinking is required to effectively harness the global training opportunities that exist including the military option and forms of sponsorship but nothing will happen if the aviation industry continues to bury its head in the sand.
Of course the Arab nations can always revert to management by chequebook which will create unwelcome inflationary pressures around the globe as we struggle with yet another  global skills shortage.
Short term this is great news for international recruitment agencies but it does not offer a long term solution.
Author: Chris Slay




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