SilkAir gears up pilots for arrival of new jet

SilkAir gears up pilots for arrival of new jet

SilkAir has begun training its pilots ahead of the arrival of the airline's first new Boeing jet early next year.

The B-737 is expected to make its public debut here at the Feb 11-to-Feb 16 Singapore Airshow before going into service by the end of March.

After flying only Airbus planes for more than a decade, 21-year-old SilkAir announced its biggest-ever aircraft purchase in August last year along with the switch from the European planemaker to American rival Boeing.

The firm order was for 54 jets - 23 Boeing 737-800s and 31 of the newer Boeing 737 MAX 8s - at a total catalogue price of US$4.9 billion (S$6.2 billion).

The single-aisle planes can typically seat between 162 and 189 passengers.

Pilot training, which takes about two months, is being done by Boeing at its Singapore facility near Changi Airport and its United States headquarters in Seattle.

The training is for pilots to familiarise themselves with a new cockpit and flying instruments.

So far, eight pilots have gone through the first phase of training in Singapore. They will complete the rest of the course in Seattle early next year, the airline's spokesman told The Straits Times.

SilkAir's 280 pilots - including captains, first officers and cadets - will be progressively trained as more planes enter the fleet. Delivery will stretch until the end of the decade.

Captain A.J. Singh, chairman of the SilkAir arm of Singapore Airlines' pilots union, said: "The guys are generally quite excited about the new fleet. I myself started at SilkAir in 1992 flying the Boeing 737 so I'm looking forward to the fleet change."

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