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SAA reopens pilot academy

Mar 19 2012 17:55 James-Brent Styan

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Cape Town - South African Airways (SAA) is reopening its pilot training academy.

The state-owned airline said it hopes to start training between 150 and 250 new pilots per year from 2013.
 
SAA is looking for a partner to join it in establishing and running the new flight academy.

Siza Mazimela, CEO of the airline, said on Monday that the new academy is necessary to establish and secure a sustainable pipeline of trained pilots and to further its transformation efforts.

“With only 17% of pilots trained since 1994 coming from previously disadvantaged communities, South Africa has not yet made all the progress it needs to in opening this highly skilled area of airline operations to aspiring pilots,” said Mzimela.

SAA itself needs about 45 new pilots a year to fulfil its growth needs and to replace those who have left due to natural attrition.

Cost burden

The airline closed down its cadet training programme in 2006 primarily to save on costs, as it was felt it could not afford to carry the burden of training new pilots alone.

Subsequently SAA and the South African Air Force (SAAF) started working together to train new pilots through a programme called the integrated pilot development programme.

Under this programme, pilots are trained by the SAAF to be ready for junior positions in an airline after five years.

Pilots that have completed the training will eventually be flying for the Air Force for 25% of their flying time as members of an active reserve, and the remaining 75% for SAA.

In 2011 the programme's estimated phased-in cost was R21.2m, with the SAAF footing most of the bill.

It is unclear how many pilots finally qualified under the programme.

SAA has not said where the money to fund the new strategy would come from. It is likely to cost hundreds of millions a year.

SAA chairperson Cheryl Carolus previously said cancelling the academy was a big error on the part of the airline.

Under the new programme, it is expected that the full training cycle from a candidate pilot's first day in the classroom to the first day on the flight deck on a regular flight will take about 3.5 years and cost between R1m and R2m.

Candidates sponsored by SAA will be required to work for the airline for an agreed number of years. The airline has now issued a tender calling for established flight training institutions to express interest in a long-term partnership to establish and manage the training academy.

The tender is open to all qualified service providers from South Africa and abroad.
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