In 2008, the Philippine aviation industry received a hard blow from the international aviation community. Due to the government’s failure to address international airport safety requirements, the United States Federal Aviation Authority downgraded Philippine airports from Category 1 to Category 2. This thus put the Philippines in the same level with countries like Bangladesh, Ghana, and Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the same year, the European Union’s air committee also banned Philippine aircrafts from flying into European countries.
Just last month, the radio communication system of Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s air control tower broke down, practically paralyzing airport operations for hours.
More recently, the squabble between employees of the Philippine Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, and its management left numerous domestic and international flights grounded as 25 PAL pilots resigned. As of this writing, the airlines’ 1,600 flight attendants are still threatening to boycott their flights and assemble a strike.
Amid all these, is there hope for our deteriorated aviation industry, which ironically used to be the best in Asia back in the ‘70s?
Fortunately, that bright spot is coming from the skilled Filipino aviation workers who, despite the haphazard state of the industry, continue to earn the respect of the global community. The country’s aircraft maintenance people, for instance, remain to be very in demand in the global workplace. They have become desirable in the job market, a testimony to the excellent Filipino aviation worker.
“We’re not seen as complainers in the workforce. We are hardworking, industrious people, mga taong may diskarte,” shares PATTS College of Aeronautics president Engineer Jose Eduardo Valdez. “I have a colleague from Cathay Pacific engineering where the employees are multi-cultural. Their boss would tell them, you know what I like about you Filipinos, you do first, you ask questions later. Kasi tipong ang iba hindi pa nagsisimula nagrereklamo agad, pero ang Pinoy, gagawin muna bago may sasabihin.”
Amid the aviation industry faux pas, aeronautical schools like PATTS are unfazed. In fact, this school has enjoyed an increase in enrollment by 18 percent this year, since 2007. PATTS’ student population is now 6,436.
“We seemed kind of separated from the situation but we’re not. It will affect PATTS but there are other countries where our graduates will find their way to. We hope that this stream will continue, like the Middle East is doing well. The downgrade of course concerns us, but hopefully, with all the new international companies that are investing here, they may hopefully mitigate some of the effects,” Valdez adds.
PATTS is one of only10 schools in the country that offers aircraft engineering and maintenance courses. But it is considered as the pioneering aeronautical school, having been established in 1969 as the Philippine Air Transport and Training Services (PATTS). It was first envisioned to institute a manufacturing and assembly plant for training aircraft but eventually operated as an aeronautical school to provide the best professional and technical training to young Filipinos.
After four decades, PATTS is still standing against all odds. From the “hangar school” it was back in the days when the school building was actually a hangar, to the new campus where it stands today in San Isidro, Parañaque City, PATTS continues to grow.
It has now broadened its spectrum in aviation education, offering courses that include Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, Air Transportation, Aircraft Maintenance Technology, Avionics Technology, Tourism, Airline Business Administration, Airline Office Administration, Hotel and Restaurant Management, Industrial Engineering, and an Aircraft Technician course.
“We want to make PATTS graduates relevant. But how do you do that? Having worked alongside PATTS graduates during my time as a structural engineer for Lufthansa Technik Philippines (LTP), I saw how good Filipinos are, and they have grown to become better engineers working in the different parts of the globe,” shares Valdez who graduated with a degree in BS Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, and a master’s degree in Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics – Structures at the University of Washington, USA.
Plans for PATTS
As the new school president, Valdez wants to take PATTS to higher heights. For instance, he hopes to work more closely with industry partners to meet industry demands and requirements.
“One of our mission statements is to assist our graduates in the labor market. And if we do this the traditional way, like after graduation, I think we would be behind the curve. What I’m doing right now is I’m actively pursuing agreements with industry partners for our trainees, while they are still students,” he shares.
Valdez says PATTS recently hooked-up with Lufthansa for training seminars which will expose students to really relevant and current aviation knowledge. He is also looking at the partnering with small general aviation companies, logistics and freight forwarding companies for its student-trainees.
The future PATTS graduate
Most PATTS aeronautic engineer graduates eventually end up working in international companies, while airline office administration graduates go to local airline companies. However, Valdez hopes that future PATTS graduates would be known not only because for their technical skills and good work attitude, but also for their communication skills.
“PATTS graduates are very hardworking, but we are working to train them to become a little bit more assertive, better communicators. A good mechanic should have good communication skills, should be assertive and be ethical. In a highly stressful, quick-paced environment such as aviation maintenance, you sign your name, you’re taking responsibility, and that’s something hard to teach. We want to make well-rounded professionals out of our students,” Valdez ends.
Recently, President Noynoy Aquino announced that NAIA Terminal 3 would be fully operational in December of this year. The Philippine government recently won the arbitration case against the Philippine International Air Terminals, Co. (PIATCO) regarding the NAIA 3 contract, as decided by the International Criminal Court in Singapore.
With an aviation industry that may soon enter another golden age courtesy of these new developments, soon-to-be graduates of aviation and aeronautics courses need not join the exodus to other countries or do jobs that are not related to their training and education. Their bright future is just waiting in the wings to soar.