Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Back in the 1960”s the then BOAC and BEA joined forces to create a pilot training school at Hamble, near Southampton, in order to ensure a steady supply of flight deck personnel to the national airlines. This was backed up by sourcing experienced pilots from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and ab initio trainees from two private schools at Oxford and Perth. Periods of too many pilots and two few aircrew followed . Somehow they could never get their requirement figures right. Hamble was closed.
Over the years the supply of military pilots has dried up and Perth was grounded . Generally speaking British Airways has in recent times secured its pilots via sponsored courses contracted out to a number of schools (some of which have come and gone), plus Oxford, which seems to have been around for ever. BA inducted into the student pilots a sense of belonging and closely monitored them to ensure its new recruits were worthy of the airline. Completion of the course did not actually mean a guaranteed job and at times of over supply graduates were sometimes offered, on temporary basis, other jobs in the airline, or told to find employment elsewhere.
What may be the last ever BA course is presently at Oxford. For the future BA intends to recruit in the open market at a rate of up to 300 a year. The savings for the airline are considerable. If you want to join British Airways the minimum requirement will be a professional pilots licence before taking even the first step of filling in an application form. However if BA accept you, you will be on the first step of a well paid ladder where you can reach a command position in something like ten years. BA will pay for all your subsequent training. Most British airlines offer similar schemes. It is off course a question of supply and demand. At present there is probably a small surplus of experienced pilots but this often dries up very quickly. The arrival of vast new fleet for the budget carriers will create a demand for cockpit crew. The Ryanair approach is somewhat different. They require ”50 for an application form and ”250 for anyone selected for interview. They say it is to filter out the time wasters. They also uniquely demand a type rating on a Boeing 737 200 or 800, which can cost the would be co-pilot up to ”20,000 (on top of his ab intio training). On the plus side promotion is very quick and with even the most junior of flight desk operatives flying up to 900 per year can reach captaincy within four years of leaving a basic flying school. Whether experienced means hours flown or years of actually flying let others decide. Pay at Ryanair is up to industry standards
At the recent ERA gathering chief executive Mike Ambrose expressed concern at government”s attitude to airline operations with taxes that railways and road transport does not have to pay. The same goes for training. Medical school trainees (or University graduates for that matter) do not have to pay VAT on their education. Go to a professional flying college and the 15 month course will cost a minimum ”50,000 plus 17.5% tax. Becoming a pilot is not cheap.
Once again pilot training is at a crossroads. Professionals in the business say that not enough people with the right motivation are coming through. At the same time the airlines do not have on offer the jobs that the young people require. What is true is that people with inspiration (and paperwork) always do eventually find themselves in satisfying flying employment. Our advice to would be flight commanders is that if that is the job that you have set your sight on, persevere. Pilot training (and pilot jobs) have always been at a permanent crossroads!