SIA may open flight school to other airlines

Singapore Airlines may open its flight school to other carriers, to tap soaring demand for pilots especially in Asia.

The airline is also reviewing its curriculum amid an industry push for a new teaching method - the multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) programme - which focuses on simulator experience and multi-crew operations, instead of solo flying.

SIA's flight school, the Singapore Flying College, currently trains pilots from the group and also accepts self-sponsored individuals.

It has campuses in Singapore and Australia.

SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides told The Straits Times the school is evaluating the feasibility of offering third-party training but declined to say more.

The demand for training facilities, from low-cost carriers and other airlines that do not wish to invest in their own flight schools, is expected to boom as airlines take on new aircraft and pilots, industry experts said.

American plane-maker Boeing estimates that the Asia-Pacific region will need 192,300 new pilots over the next 20 years - about 40 per cent of global demand.

Apart from Boeing, Canada-based CAE and Singapore's ST Aerospace Academy (STAA), a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Aerospace, also train airline pilots.

Bigger carriers like SIA, Lufthansa and Emirates typically train their own cockpit crew.

STAA, which trains Tigerair and Qatar Airways pilots, is the only Singapore facility that currently offers the multi-crew pilot licence programme for Singapore carriers.

The new training method was approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which regulates the global air industry, in 2006.

The conventional curriculum, which centres on a single-crew propeller aircraft, can result in communication hurdles when a pilot eventually starts flying commercially, experts say.

The multi-crew programme also requires training manuals to be prepared jointly with the potential airline employer, said a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

She said: "This early immersion into the participating airline's operating procedures ensures trainees are better prepared for flying duties with the airline."

More than 50 countries, including Singapore, have either implemented or are in the midst of introducing the new training programme into their pilot licensing regime, she said.

SIA will decide whether to switch to the new programme after its current review, Mr Ionides said. He did not say how long the study would take.

Captain Mok Hin Choon, president of the Air Line Pilots Association-Singapore said of the proposed change: "We support the initiative which the industry as a whole is moving towards.

"Early exposure to multi-crew flying will be good for trainees and they will be better prepared when they move to actual fleet training."

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