emirates new
A simulator at the training academy. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

UAE flagship carrier’s Emirates Flight Training Academy (EFTA) is pulling out all stops to address the regional pilot shortage by increasing its cohort size and recruiting new instructors to train Emirati and expatriate pilots.

Though Emirates officials did not name the companies, EFTA is also looking to address the shortage of pilots by partnering with other airlines where the academy cadets can work once they graduate.

Speaking to Gulf News at EFTA’s third graduation ceremony, held on Thursday, Captain Abdulla Al Hammadi, Vice President of Emirates Flight Training Academy, said: “After today’s graduation ceremony, we have inducted 53 new pilots into the aviation industry. Several airlines have approached us to propose a proposal to train pilots up to international standards.”

“The facility can take up to 600 students at a time. But in terms of equipment and human resources, we expand if there is demand. The projection was for next year to hire more people.” Captain Abdulla said the institution is limiting its recruitment to instructors and engineers, administrators, etc.

The facility currently hosts 250 cadets, including 40 international students from 18 nationalities. More than 100 cadets have graduated from EFTA as of December 2022.

According to Oliver Wyman’s latest research, the aviation industry will experience a global gap of 34,000 pilots by 2025, which could increase to 50,000, given the impact of layoffs and retirements. Driven by a projected sharp increase in air travel demand, the Middle East region could face a shortage of 3,000 pilots by 2023 and 18,000 by 2032. Boeing estimates that by 2041 the gap will widen to 602,000 pilots globally and 53,000 in the Middle East.

STOCK Emirates Flight Training Academy
Students at the Emirates training academy. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

How is Emirates addressing pilot shortages?

With the latest ceremony, EFTA celebrated crossing three major milestones, including graduating: international cadets for the first time since the academy opened its doors for non-Emirati cadets in late 2019; the largest cohort – more than 50 cadets and double that of previous events; and more than 100 cadets since its first graduation in 2020.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, awarded the graduates with their convocation certificates. He said: “Years ago, we realised there would be a huge demand for trained pilots to support commercial aviation’s needs, and as a global airline and an industry leader, we felt compelled to act.”

The state-of-the-art facility, which is equal to 200 football fields, also provides students with 36 modern ground classrooms, six full motion flight simulators, an independent air traffic control tower, and a dedicated 1,800m long runway where cadet pilots can learn, train and fly successfully without having to leave the academy’s premises.

Increasing fleet size

Currently, cadets at the academy can use the fleet of 27 training aircraft – 22 of Cirrus SR22 G6 single-engine piston aircraft and five Embraer Phenom 100EV very light jet aircraft – to train cadets with no previous knowledge of flying.

Captain Abdulla said: “So the fleet size, we are doing three more aircraft hopefully by early next year.”

How much does it cost to become a pilot?

Interested cadets must pay $181,000 to complete the two-year programme. “However, this fee is all-inclusive. The students stay here on campus, and all their living needs are taken care of,” said Captain Abdulla. At EFTA, cadets typically complete 113 weeks of training -- at least 900 hours of ground-based training and 250 hours of flight training using a competency-based approach.

The EFTA Vice President said the programme is drawing a lot of attention from interested candidates from India.