More pilots needed to meet Asia demand: ATR

Corporate August 29, 2018 01:00


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MORE pilot training centres are required to meet the projected rising demand for aircraft across Asia-Pacific, including Thailand, over the next 20 years, ATR's vice president for training and flight operations, Christian Commissaire, said yesterday.

For ATR aircraft alone, the demand for trained pilots averages at about 1,500 worldwide each year, with up to 700 of them destined for the Asia-Pacific region. This supply of new pilots is needed to keep pace with the company’s delivery of an average of 80 aircraft a year to airlines across the world, Commissaire said in a group interview.

He added that, on average, a newly delivered ATR aircraft requires five pilots and five assistants for air services. Training takes about 24 months at a cost of up US$150,000 per pilot.

With the high cost of training, that limits the supply of qualified pilots to meet the strong demand in the market, Commissaire said.

“We have a training centre in Singapore and Miami in the US, with two in France, and another in Johannesburg, South Africa,” he said. “They can produce an average of 500 new pilots a year, but that is still not enough to the meet the demand for new pilots that averages about 1,500 a year.

“However, we have collaborated with other pilot training centres in the world to train new pilots to help go towards meeting this strong demand.”

According to a survey by aircraft maker Boeing, the commercial airline industry will require 635,000 new pilots over the 20 years from 2017, in response to a doubling in the size of the global aircraft fleet and the record demand for air travel.

Of the total demand for new pilots, up to 261,000 new pilots will be required for Asia-Pacific from 2017 to 2037.

The figure was included in Boeing's 2018-2037 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook published at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh recently.

For Thailand, the country is projected to have more than 55 new aircraft from 2018 to 2037, with Thai Airways International Plc accounting for 28, Bangkok Airways Plc with 20, and Thai Air Asia Co Ltd with seven, according to a recent survey The Nation. This means they need more than 550 new pilots and assistants from this year to 2037. 

The airlines will also need more new pilots to replace those who will retire during that period. This demand is based on the assumption of five pilots and assistants for one aircraft.

“Bangkok also has a pilot training centre that have enough capability for the training of new pilots to serve the country's aviation growth,” Commissaire said.

Boeing notes in its Business Environment Update report for 2018 that there are 295,000 active commercial pilots around the world.

More broadly, the 2018-2037 Pilot and Technician Outlook also forecast the need for 96,000 business aviation pilots and 59,000 civil helicopter pilots over the next two decades. The report marks the first time that the Boeing report has offered a view on these two sectors.

In line with the strong projected demand for pilots worldwide, including Asia-Pacific, all players in the aviation sector share a responsibility to ensure there are sufficient training facilities to meet the demand for cockpit crews.