Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why few Filipinos go to flight schools

OVER 100 students are attending this flight school based on Mactan Island in Cebu. Training is rigorous. The flight school

does not take any shortcuts in making sure that its graduates comply with the required number of flight hours necessary for them to obtain licenses as commercial pilots.

But the news is—only five of the hundred students are Filipinos. The majority come from countries in Asia, Middle East and even Africa.

Lately, Indonesians dominated the enrollees at Aviatour Flight School (Aviatour). They decided to come to Cebu to train after the aviation industry in their country announced opportunities for them to work as pilots right after graduation.

The dismal turnout of Filipino enrollees in an estimated 60 flight schools across the country and seven flight schools in Cebu is primarily brought about by the notion that “flight school is expensive,” says Capt. Jessup Bahinting, Aviatour chair and chief executive officer.

“There are no available scholarships for prospective students. For those who do not know the industry well, they think that going to a flight school is expensive. In reality, it’s almost the same (expenses) when (you send a student to) study medicine,” Bahinting says.

Parents’ mind-set

A student will have to spend roughly P2 million for a 10-month to one-year study in flight training, according to Bahinting. This include tuition, housing and daily allowance for a student who does not live in Cebu.

Bahinting’s daughter, Jemar, who is currently president and chief operating officer of Aviatour, says the situation is different in Indonesia where the job market for pilots would entice students to go to a flight school.

“Indonesians come here because there is an aviation market there. The six airlines there are waiting for these students to graduate and they will employ them immediately,” she says.

Currently, Aviatour has 25 flight instructors and has graduated over 200 since it started in 2006. It operates 35 Cessna 152 and Cessna 172 aircraft which are used for flight training.

Captain Bahinting said changing the mind-set of the parents to send their children to flight school is another major problem.

“Many parents will think about their return of investment. How fast will they get their money back. But I tell you, even if you work here, in our school, for example, as flight instructor, you can earn better,” he says.

Flight instructors in Aviatour earn at least P100,000 a month.

“They (parents) might get their investment on the third or fourth year,” Bahinting says.

Another challenge is the lack of government support in terms of providing scholarships for students, Kenneth Madrid, executive vice president for sales and marketing of the company, says.

In India, for instance, Bahinting says the government has partnered with a bank to give funds to potential pilots to study in a flight school. The scheme is similar to the “study now, pay later” program, which most Philippine organizations have adopted.

“These potential students report to the airline company and the company evaluates if they have potential to be future pilots. When they are given positive remarks from the airline, they are connected to a bank which will give them the loan,” Bahinting says.

“They will pay their loan through a salary deduction once they start working for the airline company.”

Worldwide prospects

Aside from Filipinos, the current crop of Aviatour students come from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

These issues should not discourage Filipinos from considering enrolling in a flight school, especially now that stricter rules are being implemented before allowing flight schools to continue their operation.

“We are strictly following Icao (International Civil Aviation Organization) standards because we don’t want a one-shot business. We want repeat business. We do not do shortcuts. Quality is ensured,” Madrid says.

“There is no hiding how good the students are because they can see the quality of the graduates (from the Philippines). This way, we are helping build the image of the Philippines,” he adds.

Captain Bahinting says the bright prospects for pilots abroad should encourage them to study even if the local job market is still weak.

Citing recent aviation statistics, Bahinting said about 400,000 pilots would be needed in 20 years while 35,000 aircraft would be ordered by airline companies worldwide in the next 10 years.

These developments indicate that demand from air travel would continue to grow in the succeeding years, Bahinting says. These should encourage Filipinos to start steering the wheel and try flying.

Posted via email from Aviation Professionals dot Org

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