Singapore Airlines (SIA) will start pilot training for the Airbus 350 from next month, ahead of the delivery of its first plane in January.
Up to 100 pilots will be trained within the first three to four months, said the airline, which has ordered 67 A-350s, including seven of the ultra-long-range variant that will fly non-stop from Singapore to the United States
Typically, it takes about 10 days for a pilot currently flying an Airbus jet to be ready to handle an A-350. Conversion for pilots on the Boeing fleet requires about 25 days.
The training for SIA pilots will be conducted at the Airbus Asia Training Centre (AATC) - a pilot school jointly owned by the carrier and the European plane maker. The facility, currently operating out of SIA's training centre near Changi Airport, will move to its new premises at Seletar Aerospace Park in the first quarter of next year.
Since it started offering flying courses in April, the AATC, which is open to all carriers, has already confirmed nine customers including Qantas, Virgin Australia, Lion Air and Fiji Airways.
When the US$100 million (S$139 million) facility is fully operational, it will have 70 staff, mainly instructors drawn from SIA's pool of retired captains. The school will then be able to train up to 10,000 students a year, said its general-manager, Captain Yann Lardet.
It will eventually have eight full flight simulators, including three A-350s, he said.
There are now four simulators, one each for the A-350 and the A-380 and two for the A-330.
The A-350 simulator housed here, with a catalogue price of US$18,000, is just one of two available globally. The other is at Airbus' headquarters in Toulouse, France.
This speaks clearly of the significance of the Asia-Pacific market, said Capt Lardet during a media preview yesterday. Based on industry estimates, the region will need 12,470 passenger and cargo planes and account for 40 per cent of global demand over the next two decades.
This will, in turn, fuel the demand for pilot and other training centres, Capt Lardet said, as airlines look to outsourcing to avoid high start-up and running costs of in-house facilities.
In a 2013 paper, a partner at industry consultant Information Services Group, Mr Harvey Gluckman, noted that outsourcing allows airline management to focus on the core business while leveraging on a service provider's scale, expertise and systems.
Depending on their requirements and cost structure, airlines can expect to shave off up to half of their training costs through outsourcing, experts said.
As safety and quality of training are of utmost importance, Capt Lardet said he was confident that the Airbus-SIA facility will do brisk business.