If the vast potential of the newly-opened Clark International Aviation (CIA) at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga would be realized, commercial pilots can well be the next professionals that Filipinos could be famous for.
Opened early this year, the CIA offers an intensive, integrated 12-month training of first-time pilots. At the end of the program, graduates would be qualified and certified to fly Airbus 320s, the most favored single-aisle aircraft in the world.
CIA chairman and chief executive officer Mark Pearson believes there will come a day, while on a flight from London to Paris, he would recognize the captain as a graduate of CIA - and a Filipino at that.
At the core of CIA program is an $ 11-million, state-of-the-art full flight simulator, the first of its kind in the country.
"We train pilots who have never flown an airplane before. They graduate from college and come here for the intensive, integrated, 12-month program. They come and live here at Clark. In the first five months, they spend their time in the classrooms to learn all the theoretical knowledge plus ground studies. They have to learn about aviation, meteorology, navigation, flight instruments and air law, among others," explained Pearson, himself a former pilot for the British airline Monarch.
From ground instructions, the pilot cadets move on to fly 70 hours in small light planes where they will learn "basic pilot skills.
Pilot-cadets live inside the CIA compound but are accorded comfortable accommodations. CIA has two types of accommodations the air-conditioned and serviced dormitory type (P5,000 a month excluding the food) which can fit 18 cadets in a room and apartments ( a night) for single and double occupancies complete with shower and baths, personal refs, DVD players, wireless internet, and TV. CIA also has a full-service gym, basketball gym and bar. Pilot-cadets may also bring their wives with them during the program.
ANSWER TO PILOT SHORTAGE
Now comes the best part.
At the end of the 12 months, the pilot-cadets not only graduate as commercial pilots but fully type-rated to fly the Airbus 320 which immediately made them eligible to enter the airline service.
Perhaps what attracts CIA to prospective pilots is the price of the training fees as against the high salaries a graduate can expect. At the moment, course fee is pegged at $ 80,000. But Pearson was quick to point out that this is a bargain compared to the facilities where similar programs are offered.
"We can actually deliver our training at the fraction of the price that it would cost to deliver, say in Europe for example. When the Europeans start this program it would probably cost double compared to that in the Philippines," said Pearson.
He noted that given the shortage in pilots of A320s, both in Asia and other parts of the world, prospective pilots stand to get a windfall in salaries once they get their certification from CIA.
"All of the pilots are guaranteed a job once they graduate from the program. There is global pilot shortage at the moment which requires 16,000 new pilots each in every year for the next 20 years. And we are here to train pilots in time for the delivery of new planes for these airlines," said Pearson.
CIA chose the Philippines as its area of operations because of its strategic location.
"It is accessible to all points in Asia. It has one of the lowest cost bases in Asia. Combined with that it has an abundance of highly-educated fluent English-speaking (English) personnel," he said.
Pearson added that what makes CIA's program distinct is that it is the first school in the world which has actually commenced with the multicrew license program approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
THE FUTURE OF AVIATION
CIA has also opened its facilities for the re-training of pilots coming from both local and foreign airline companies. It is a mandatory international requirement for a pilot, including seasoned pilots, captains and first officers, to retrain every six months for him to maintain his proficiency if he is to keep his license.
"This is the only opportunity they have to practice real emergency drills that I hope they will never see in real life like engine failures, engine fires, hydraulic problems. The kind of problems you can't safely simulate on a real plane on the air with real passengers on board," said Rick Norman, head of flight operations.
Cebu Pacific currently has a group of its own pilots re-training at CIA.
As word about CIA spreads around, the Clark-based institution has seen a steady stream of pilot cadets as well as pilots who are on its re-training program.
"We have a new course intake every month of 18 cadets so in a full year we will have about 220 cadets in training in any one time," averred Norman.
He added that CIA is an international school and that majority of the pilot-cadets do happen to be Filipinos. But it does have students from Europe and India and is expecting a huge influx from the Middle East and China.
If the substantial investments in the country were not enough, Pearson said CIA would be bringing in three more simulators and two A-320s. There will also be two other different types of simulators called fixed-based simulators.
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