Over the next two decades explosive growth for Middle East airlines will create thousands of jobs. Training is key if supply is to keep up with demand, writes Sherry Carbary, vice president of Boeing Flight Services.
Careers in aviation ready to take off
Astounding progress has been made on the vision to transform the Middle East into a global crossroads - a diversified economic and transportation hub, with cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha forming a nexus for the flying world between north and south, east and west.
Yet the aviation industry is facing a challenge to that progress that is going to require equal vision and initiative to overcome - meeting the growing demand for people in aviation.
As airlines in the Middle East build on their success, they are expanding their fleets. According to the most recent Boeing Current Market Outlook, more than 2,500 airplanes are expected to be ordered by airlines in the region over the next 20 years.
The thousands of new airplanes required to support this growth will need a corresponding supply of hundreds of thousands of pilots and maintenance technicians. Boeing recently released the 2011 Pilot and Technician Outlook, predicting a global requirement for 460,000 new commercial airline pilots and 650,000 maintenance technicians over the next 20 years.
The implications of this report are significant for the Middle East: 36,600 new pilots and 53,000 new skilled maintenance personnel are required to staff the region's airlines between now and 2030.
But traditional infrastructure that once supported careers in aviation is diminishing, along with the corresponding philosophies and methodologies. That means the current ability to attract, recruit, educate, train and retain people is not sufficient to meet demands. It is a situation that threatens to limit the amazing opportunities for travel and economic growth.
The need is increasingly urgent. Emirates Airline recently recruited more than 500 pilots and, like Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, is facing a limited pipeline of personnel in the region. Successful low-cost carriers such as flydubai, Air Arabia and Jazeera Airways are also growing fast and are facing the same challenges as their full-service counterparts.
For a fast-growing region, resources are critical, and none more so than human capital. It comes as little surprise that Etihad, one of the world's youngest yet fastest-growing full-service airlines, was quick to leverage the untapped local expertise of female pilots. Airlines are also looking farther afield, recruiting pilots from other airlines and other regions of the world.
In this social media era, to engage the employees of today and tomorrow, all of the Middle Eastern aviation powers are reaching out to the world with fan pages and accounts via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. But considering other regions of the world are using similar tactics, and given the shrinking pool of pilots to recruit from, we cannot expect that this tactic will succeed in the future.
The Middle East may have fewer ageing airplanes to replace compared with other regions of the world, but the demand for pilots and technicians in the region is growing just as rapidly as elsewhere because of rapid expansion and investment in new-generation airplanes.
These new jetliners may just give the industry a chance to radically change the way it attracts, teaches and trains. It will take a new approach, which, like the newest jetliners and the younger generation that forms much of the industry's human resource pool, is highly digital.
It starts with online and mobile device-based training, which not only saves paper, but, more important, also appeals to today's students. These new "recruits" are significantly more knowledgeable about technology. The industry needs to acknowledge the generational and technological changes shaping the lives of today's young people and adapt aviation training methods, philosophies, tools - and even the instructors - themselves to these new realities.
One new methodology is multi-crew pilot licence, a programme designed to train an individual with no flight experience to be qualified as a first officer on a commercial jet. It is focused on performance and competence and is the way many pilots around the world will be trained in the future.
Boeing estimates it is going to take more than 1,000 new pilot instructors each year to do the job. Clearly, the industry is going to have to partner with airlines, schools and other training providers to find creative ways to meet this urgent need.
Research shows that the instructor plays a critical role in learning and performance. In the future, aptitude will take precedence over flying hours for the next wave of flight instructors.
There is also a need to formally establish and upgrade global requirements of certified instructors at aviation academies and schools around the world.
Overall, it will take an industry-wide effort reaching into schools and universities to generate excitement about careers in aviation.
Sherry Carbary is the vice president of Boeing Flight Services, a business unit of Commercial Aviation Services, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
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