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Self-Sponsored Training: The Big Debate

There is much controversy about self-sponsored pilot development programmes, not only amongst pilots, but also airlines and flying academies all over the world. The demand for highly qualified Captains and First Officers worldwide is growing dramatically. An article in the Spanish Aviation Magazine ISSUU shows that just in Asia, a staggering 216,000 more pilots are needed by the year 2033. The total number of pilots required all around the world in this period will be more than half a million.

The situation is clear: More routes, more aircraft require more pilots, but how can the cadets get enough experience to get in the cockpit? And moreover, what happens when the airlines don’t have the budget to hire enough instructors and examiners to do the job?

The price you pay for experience.

If aviation is compared with any other profession, there are many examples of new entrants needing to pay for the training and work experience needed to embark on the career of their choice. A doctor for example may have paid US$150,000 over a decade before being fully qualified. The Medical Study Guide says that while some medical residency students receive a salary, in many countries the student must pay an annual fee for specialisation. It can be argued that this is not much different than self-sponsored pilot training. In any case a young doctor who has only practiced on corpses is similar to a cadet pilot who has only flown a simulator in that both need real life experience - and that comes at a high price. There is not much of a market for first officers without 500 hours on-type experience.

The European Cockpit Association (ECA) commented on the trend among airlines to outsource pilots’ initial training and to charge exorbitant fees for the in-house training courses they provide. ECA firmly rejects so called “Pay to Fly” schemes and considers that a pilot in line training should not be forced to pay for performing commercial operations on revenue-earning flights.

“Line Training is exactly the same as any other specialisation. Nowadays, students take an MBA or any other specialised course and they all see it as an investment for their future” affirms Captain Jose Luis Parra, head of Pilot Training at Global Training Aviation. An MBA at Oxford University for 2016-17 costs around US$75,000 – a comparable figure to the cost of line training / on-type experience charged by many airlines.

Self-sponsored pilot training is popular because it provides a route into the industry for young pilots and an additional revenue stream for airlines. But there is no doubt others see it as exploitative and that it excludes many talented young pilots whose families just don’t have the means to finance it.

Professional training always comes at a cost but we would like to know what you think. Please complete our 5 question survey and tell us if you agree or disagree with this trend.


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