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In UAE, aviation academies are helping to train new recruits for the aviation industry, which is beset with staffing shortages. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: A construction industry giant taking up a role – even an indirect one - in aviation? That’s been the journey Dubai-based Khansaheb has been on for two years now with its training academy for aviation industry personnel.

Dynamic Advanced Training, backed by Khansaheb, launched in June 2020, barely a month after Covid had brought the aviation industry to a standstill. Airlines had to ground a majority of their fleets, and not long after, began letting go of thousands of pilots and cabin crew.

Hands on training and the full-on simulation is what candidates go through at Dynamic Advanced Training. Credit: Irish Eden Belleza and Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Fast forward to August 2022, and the sector is facing its worst staffing shortage in history, with air travel demand recovering to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Aviation academies are working at speed to train pilots and crew.

As per industry rumors, some airlines are even teaching future flight attendants using PowerPoint slides. Against this backdrop, Dynamic Advanced Training, which focuses on aviation safety, is offering a ‘practical’ training environment consisting of advanced simulators that can replicate a host of scenarios, such as turbulence and even a crash.

The airline industry is fast catching up with pre-pandemic demand levels. But it is on the staffing requirements that airlines continue to face a deficit. And private training academies are trying to set that right. Credit: Irish Eden Belleza and Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“The idea sort of evolved in 2013,” said Mark Kammer, co-founder of Dynamic Advanced Training. “We saw a gap in the market for a specific type of reality-based training that we want to - and do - provide.

“It took a while to research and to see how we could improve upon conventional training, (and this involved) stepping away from PowerPoint presentations, and getting into a more hands-on practical training environment, which is fun, evokes emotions, and ultimately leads to better knowledge retention.”

Dynamic trains candidates on various types of aircraft like the Airbus A320 family, A350 and the Boeing 737, among others. “A legacy training center belonging to an airline will only be able to train in aircraft types they have in their fleet,” said Krammer. “On the business aviation side, we can train on GulfStream and Bombardier’s Global aircraft – it’s a one-stop shop.”

Dynamic’s client base has grown to 50 and consists of nearly all the region’s private aviation firms. “While commercial aviation was stopped in its tracks, business aviation did continue, and that was why we were able to build up our customer base for business aviation safety emergency procedure training,” said Krammer.

When commercial air traffic goes back to 2019 levels, there will be even more demand for training, said Krammer. “We've had about five weeks of solid training just now - aviation safety training is done on a recurrent basis as well.”

Long process

The staffing deficit seen across the industry can partly be blamed on the time taken to train new candidates. It takes two years to gain the required 1,500 hours of flight time to become an airline pilot. Cabin staff require two- to three months.

“This effect will most probably continue in its current form for the near-term and that’s because to get people working in aviation jobs again, it requires a certain amount of training,” said Maximilian Buerger, who heads a pilot training platform.

“Setting up simulators is expensive and only certain countries are investing in building this infrastructure. “The UAE has invested heavily in this space and now training centers here are seeing pilots and cabin crew from all around the world.”

Attracting more talent

There’s also another problem that could affect the industry in the coming years - and that’s getting young adults and children interested in aviation again. “If someone considers joining aviation, they ask themselves: ‘What if there’s another pandemic? Will I lose my job?” said Buerger. “Sadly, many people could not wait for two years to get their jobs back and have moved on to other industries.”

The industry body IATA (International Air Transport Association) said in a 2020 report that the pandemic could threaten the jobs of 46 million people. Soon after the outbreak, major airlines terminated 30-40 per cent of their staff and announced hefty pay cuts – some of them have carried on with the salary reduction even to this day.

Despite the negative perception centered around aviation’s future, it is still the place to be, argues Buerger. US airlines are offering pilots double or triple their normal rate as the world’s largest domestic market struggles with a severe staffing deficit, said Buerger, adding that some carriers have been taking up the flight training expenses of aspiring pilots and even offering them a monthly pay.

Aviation is again finding a place in pop culture, thanks to movies such as Top Gun: Maverick. “More movies about aviation and flying will help promote the sector to young people,” said Buerger.

Job outlook
US plane-maker Boeing has estimated that 602,000 new pilots, 610,000 new maintenance technicians, and 899,000 new cabin crew members will be needed to fly and maintain the global commercial aviation fleet over the next 20 years.

“This outlook assumes continued investment in an uninterrupted pipeline of qualified personnel to replace those who either reached retirement age or opted for voluntary early retirement during the pandemic,” said Boeing in the report.

“The return of personnel furloughed during the pandemic will provide only limited relief, as many have already left the industry.”