When he was a child, Mr Liang Rui aspired to be a pilot - but ended up being a TV magician.
Yesterday, he got to fulfil his dream thanks to budget airline Scoot, as it announced a deal that will see its pilots trained to fly Boeing 787 Dreamliners over the next five years.
Aviation buff Mr Liang, 25, a Chinese national from Qingdao, was one of three winners of a competition held by the company, which offered the chance to take control of the state-of-the-art aircraft in a flight simulator. Mr Liang even borrowed a pilot's uniform for the occasion, saying: "It made the experience more realistic and awesome."
Scoot inked the training deal with American plane manufacturer Boeing yesterday. It will train B-787 pilots at its Singapore training campus in Changi, including 32 this year alone. More are expected in the next five years, as Scoot expands its fleet.
The transition for those who have flown B-777s is expected to be smooth as the B-787's handling characteristics are "similar", said the head of flight operations at Scoot, Captain Rohan Hari Chandra.
Scoot, a Singapore Airlines subsidiary, will start to take delivery of 20 B-787s later this year, as part of the SIA group's plans to expand its presence in the fast-growing low-cost market. The B-787s will have up to 375 seats in two classes.
Scoot's chief executive officer Campbell Wilson said the first B-787 is expected to enter service in early December and will most likely fly the Singapore-Taipei-Tokyo routes.
Scoot's fleet expansion will enable it to increase frequency and add new destinations. The B-787s are also about 27 per cent more fuel-efficient per seat, said Mr Wilson, who added: "Lower cost structure allows us to offer good value air fares, so people can fly more often and 'scoot' out of here."
The budget carrier, which was launched about two years ago, now operates B-777s on routes between Singapore and Sydney, Gold Coast, Taipei, Tokyo, Tianjin, Shenyang, Nanjing, Qingdao, Seoul, Perth and Hong Kong.
Such medium- and long-haul routes, unlike short ones, are less affected by the oversupply in capacity, a common problem plaguing most low-cost carriers in the region today, said Mr Wilson.
"We are hitting the targets we aim to achieve and doing well so far," he added. "It's still early days for us."
Vice-president of Boeing Flight Services Sherry Carbary said: "Aviation opportunities - for airlines and pilots - are expanding rapidly in the Asia-Pacific region, and we're pleased to offer a robust network of experienced instructors and training devices close to our customers across the region."
Boeing projects that over the next 20 years, there will be a need for 498,000 new commercial airline pilots and 556,000 new maintenance technicians for the new planes entering the world fleet. In South-east Asia alone, 51,500 pilots and 64,700 technicians are needed to fill the gap.
This article was published on May 17 in The Straits Times.
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