SIA, Airbus team up to open pilot training school here

A flight simulator at the Airbus Asia Training Centre which has 15 instructors, mainly former SIA pilots, and there are plans to hire up to 50 by 2019. To date, 17 airlines have signed up for courses at the facility.
A flight simulator at the Airbus Asia Training Centre which has 15 instructors, mainly former SIA pilots, and there are plans to hire up to 50 by 2019. To date, 17 airlines have signed up for courses at the facility.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Airbus have opened a new pilot training school in Seletar, amid a growing demand for cockpit crew in the region.

The move is expected to further boost Singapore's status as a key aviation hub, industry analysts said.

When fully operational by 2019, the 9,250 sq m facility at Seletar Aerospace Park will be Airbus' fourth and biggest training centre.

The other three are located at its headquarters in Toulouse, France, as well as in Miami and Beijing.

The US$100 million (S$136 million) facility in Singapore will eventually have eight full-flight simulators and six fixed cockpit training devices as well as classrooms.

It will have the capacity to train more than 10,000 people a year.

The Airbus-SIA venture adds to other facilities here offering pilot training, namely Singapore Technologies Aerospace's training arm as well as Haite Singapore Aviation Training Centre.

The Airbus Asia Training Centre is 55 per cent owned by the European plane maker, with the rest owned by SIA. It is a key investment for the airline, said SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong, and in line with the carrier's "transformative strategy to go beyond the core business into adjacent areas".

This is necessary with stiff competition from full-service and low-cost carriers, he said at the facility's official opening yesterday.

Investing in the training centre provides a good opportunity for SIA to benefit from the growing demand for crew to support the region's massive aircraft orders. Airbus predicts the Asia-Pacific region will lead demand for new aircraft, with the in-service fleet growing from around 5,600 aircraft today to 14,000 over the next two decades.

To support the expansion, airlines will need to grow crew numbers from more than 65,000 now to almost 170,000.

Airbus' president and chief executive officer Fabrice Brégier, who was also at the event, said: "The new centre combines the expertise of our two companies to offer the highest standards of training for the growing flight crew population in the Asia-Pacific region.

"One day we will have pilotless aircraft but I can assure you that in the next 20 years, we will make full use of our facility here," he said.

To date, 17 airlines have signed up for courses at the facility, including Qatar Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Japan Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

Trade and Industry Minister (Industry) S. Iswaran, the chief guest at the event, said the establishment of the centre will create highly skilled jobs, including flight instructors and simulator technicians.

It will also provide new career pathways and opportunities amid Singapore's industry transformation efforts, he said, citing the example of an SIA pilot who joined the centre after retiring from SIA.

The school has 15 instructors, mainly former SIA pilots. It plans to hire up to 50 by 2019.

On whether the school is a good place for SIA to channel retired pilots, Mr Goh said: "It's not so much that. It's really just a natural fit between what the centre needs and the skills that these pilots have."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'SIA, Airbus team up to open pilot training school here'. Print Edition | Subscribe