20220828 uae pilots
Got in enough flying hours? And skillsets in managing the latest generation of aircraft. Then you are hired. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Now is a good time to be a pilot. Or want to be one.

Airlines in the UAE, the Gulf and everywhere else have boosted their hiring of pilots – and more than willing to match salary expectations for those who have done optimum flying hours. Especially on the new-gen aircraft that many airlines are now on-boarding.

Emirates this week confirmed that it will be setting up a $135 million state-of-the-art facility in Dubai to train a crop of pilots for its upcoming Airbus A350 and Boeing 777X.

Emirates isn’t the only one adding to the pilot ranks - Etihad Airways, Air Arabia, and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi have posted jobs seeking cadets, first officers, and captains for fast-expanding operations.

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There are also openings for mechanics and technicians for aircraft and avionics equipment, air traffic controllers and engineers. According to an aviation expert, an aeronautical engineer can earn from Dh20,000, and pilots can get paid anywhere Dh40,000 and with substantial perks. “The lowest salary for a loading bridge operator in the aviation sector is Dh7,900,” he added.

A bumper year for pilots?

Maximilian Buerger, the Managing Director of AFM - Pilot Training Industry Market Intelligence, said, “2023 should be a great year for pilots as airlines ramp up operations. In the Middle East and India, airlines are set to receive many aircraft to grow their fleet, including flydubai, Air Arabia, Flynas, IndiGo, Akasa Air and others.

“In addition to the demand for narrow body aircraft like the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 Max, experienced pilots for wide-body aircraft will be in demand as airlines rebuild their international route networks.”

Emirates’ announcement of its $135 million investment into expanding its advanced pilot training infrastructure is a sign of confidence in the fast-paced recovery of air travel. It also ties in neatly into the UAE’s continued investment to establish itself as a global pilot training hub.

Taking up a career as a pilot is zooming up the charts among UAE based graduates. And parents too are all for it. Image Credit: Emirates

Does Air India need 5,600 pilots?

Then there are the international carriers scouting for pilots. Air India’s order for 470 aircraft will mean new jobs as well. “If we were to assume a crewing ratio - which is an assumption of the number of pilots required per aircraft for a particular set of operations - to be 12 pilots per aircraft and assume that the 470 aircraft will all be for Air India’s fleet growth, we are looking at a pilot requirement of over 5,600, “said Buerger.

“We are expecting huge growth in the Indian aviation sector over the next decade - and record demand for pilots. Indian airlines will most likely continue to sign pilot training agreements with training organisations from around the globe but will prioritise domestic solutions.”

While the increase in demand for pilots in India will impact pilot recruitment in the region, the extent of this remains to be seen. “The GCC and especially the UAE airlines have positioned themselves extremely well in terms of their offering for pilots and their families – safe cities with a great education, medical facilities, transportation and infrastructure,” added Buerger, who does not see an exodus of pilots from GCC airlines to India or Turkey.

Pilot aspirants

Young Emiratis and expatriates are showing a keen interest in becoming pilots. Over 250 students are enrolled at Emirates Flight Training Academy (EFTA), and 1,600 at the Emirates Aviation University (EAU) in Dubai.

EFTA is pulling out all stops to address the regional post-pandemic pilot shortage by increasing its cohort size and recruiting new instructors to train Emirati and expatriate pilots. More than 100 cadets have graduated from EFTA as of December 2022, and the Emirates Aviation University ushered more than 474 graduates, representing 56 nationalities, into the workforce during its 32nd graduation ceremony.

Capt. Abdulla Al Hammadi, Vice-President of Emirates Flight Training Academy (EFTA), told Gulf News, “We’ve seen a spike in the interest from students, and their parents, on pursuing a career as a pilot, enrol in flight training and join EFTA.

Captain Abdullah Al Hammadi
Captain Abdullah Al Hammadi, Vice President, Emirates Flight Training Academy.

“This is tempered with the fact that aviation was one of the most visibly affected industries worldwide during the pandemic and had some of the most evocative imagery seared in people’s collective consciousness.”

Stringent eligibility

However, he said it would take some more time for people to have complete confidence in the sector from an employment perspective. “Flight training in general and EFTA in particular have stringent eligibility criteria and standards, requiring specific skills and aptitude. Our cadet numbers are healthy and absolutely in line with our expectations,” Al Hammadi.

“Moreover, just the fact that we’ve already graduated more than 100 cadets within the past three years, despite the pandemic, speaks volumes of the interest in becoming pilots.”

It is important to remember that not only is there significant demand for pilots but the pilot training industry is also recovering. And that requires more instructors…