Horizon International Flight Academy in Al Ain plans to become a full-fledged aviation university and offer undergraduate degrees, its officials said. While the accreditation is not planned until the middle of next decade, the flight academy is already laying the foundation with a new "higher diploma" in aviation business aviation this fall, said Mohammed al Zaabi (ck), the general manager at Horizon. "By 2016, we expect Horizon will be an aviation university," he said.
Conceived in the wake of the September 11 crisis, which slowed the flow of Middle East students to learn to fly in US flight schools, Horizon opened in 2003 and now has a student body of more than 230 cadets in helicopter and fixed wing training. Many of its students, particularly in the helicopter courses, are sponsored by governments and militaries in the UAE and wider region. The school has developed a niche, Mr al Zaabi said, with only a few other private schools in Saudi Arabia and Qatar offering flight training.
But it is not the only aerospace education company in Al Ain, which boasts clear weather and its own international airport despite its proximity to Abu Dhabi. Other schools include Al Ain International Aviation Academy, which focuses more on engineering programs, and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College operated by the UAE military. Also expected soon is US-based Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which is planning an Al Ain campus in partnership with Mubadala Development, an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi Government, and Northrop Grumman, the US aerospace and defence contractor.
Other plans at the emirate's second city include an aerospace manufacturing and industrial zone, with a carbon fibre composites plant as the anchor tenant. Horizon currently offers courses for private pilot licenses, commercial pilot licenses, air transport pilot licenses and flight instructor courses, using Bell helicopters and Cessna aeroplanes. Its growth plans will continue on August 23 when the autumn term begins and it begins its higher diploma in business administration, designed to ease the transition for pilots moving into management roles in the industry. After Horizon graduates the first batch of students in this course, the school plans to apply with the Ministry of Higher Education and undergo an audit, Mr al Zaabi said.