x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Aviation training from the ground up

Abu Dhabi institution to provide qualified staff to cater for rapid growth in air transport

Abu Dhabi is staking its claim to become a regional centre for aviation training with a new research facility due to be inaugurated at Al Bateen Executive Airport towards the end of December. The Middle East is experiencing a dramatic expansion in its aviation sector. In the UAE, Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways will create a combined 60,000 jobs over the next 10 years as the two carriers acquire US$100 billion (Dh367.31bn) worth of new planes.

The Gulf Centre of Aviation Studies (GCAS) will seek to fill a niche in regional training centres, which have focused on in-flight crew and overlooked the needs of training general airport staff, the number of whom is set to dramatically rise in the coming years. "Previously, training focused on the needs of airlines such as cabin crew and pilots but that is not all of aviation," said Othman al Khouri, the deputy general manager of GCAS.

"It is also about airports and roles like ground handling, catering, safety and security, customer service and air navigation services." GCAS is an initiative of the Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) and is a multimillion-dollar investment. It began running training courses in temporary facilities at Abu Dhabi International Airport in January last year. It will move the classes to the new facility at the capital's Al Bateen airport after the Ramadan religious holiday, prior to an official inauguration at the end of the year. It has already trained 1,500 staff.

Aviation is an economic success story in many parts of the Middle East. The industry accounts for an estimated 25 per cent of GDP in Dubai. Emirates is already ranked as the largest airline in the world in terms of passenger miles and Etihad has been ranked as the fastest-growing airline. While many of the jobs created will be in-flight crew, there will also be a huge need for ground staff. There are an estimated $75bn worth of planned and current airport infrastructure projects in the Middle East, GCAS believes, while annual passenger traffic will triple from an estimated 200 million annual passengers last year to 600 million by 2025.

At Abu Dhabi International Airport alone, staffing needs are set to climb rapidly. Workers from ADAC, the police, immigration, customs, duty free and catering totalled 12,000 last year but that will rise to 29,000 by 2015, 42,000 by 2020 and top 50,000 by 2025, according to GCAS forecasts. GCAS will serve the needs of ADAC and local companies as well as the wider region, Mr al Khouri said. It has already agreed to train staff at Bahrain International Airport and Kuwait Airways and has received students from as far away as Singapore and the Seychelles.

This year, GCAS, which is a not-for-profit entity, became the only training facility in the Middle East to be certified by all four internationally recognised training and regulatory bodies: the International Civil Aviation Organisation; International Air Transport Association; Airports Council International; and Joint Aviation Authorities Training Organisation. "This is the first time somebody has put the training all under one roof," Mr al Khouri said. Previously, ADAC employees and other airport workers in the region were forced to travel to Montreal, Amsterdam and Geneva to receive training. This week, ADAC said 50 of its execu

tives would undertake an airport management professional accreditation programme, starting in November. igale@thenational.ae