SIA cuts pilot training time, closes one Australia facility

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has cut pilot training time by three months and will close one of its two facilities in Australia. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Singapore Airlines (SIA) has cut pilot training time by three months and will close one of its two facilities in Australia. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has cut pilot training time by three months and will close one of its two facilities in Australia.

Instead of 90 weeks, cadets will undergo a 78-week course - in Singapore and at SIA's Jandakot facility in Perth.

The school in Maroochydore, Queensland, which opened in 2002, will be shut down next March, said SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides.

The changes reflect developments in training technology and procedures, he added.

He told The Straits Times: "This is not intended as a cost-cutting measure and is not related to a surplus of pilots." There will be no impact on the quality of training, he stressed.

SIA froze cadet pilot recruitment about 18 months ago amid slower-than-expected growth, and has asked junior pilots to volunteer for unpaid leave. Its pilots are trained by its subsidiary, Singapore Flying College.

Before, a cadet would spend 34 weeks in Singapore, 44 in Jandakot and the last 12 weeks at the Maroochydore school where they undergo jet aircraft training in small planes. Today, state-of-the-art training devices are capable of replicating realistic operational scenarios, Mr Ionides said.

Cadets are also exposed to the jet environment and curriculum very early in their pilot training.

This negates the need for the specific jet exposure offered at Maroochydore, he said. Additional training modules have also been incorporated into the programme that new pilots undergo in Singapore before they become first officers.

At the Maroochydore facility, 12 out of 15 staff have left. The last few will stay until closing day, Mr Ionides said. The school's three flight simulators and four Cessna C510 Mustang aircraft will be sold.

Pilot training experts pointed out that increasingly, airlines are adopting programmes that aim to put new pilots into commercial jets with more relevant hands-on experience.

Instead of spending as much as 80 per cent of training time in a light aircraft, new pilots now make more use of flight simulators and techniques that build interpersonal and communication skills to prepare them to operate in a multi-crew environment.

The new multi-crew pilot licence programme is certified by global civil aviation bodies including the International Civil Aviation Organisation. It is also supported by the International Air Transport Association, the global voice of airlines.

karam@sph.com.sg