The Middle East, Where Pilot Shortage and Training Market Meet

Middle East

With its fast expansion and large ambitions, the Middle East is both a flashpoint for a growing global pilot shortage and a potential major consumer of training aircraft and services.

Boeing’s 2019 Pilot & Technician Outlook forecasts a need for 68,000 new pilots in the Middle East by 2038—64,000 for commercial carriers and 2,000 each to pilot the region’s business and rotor fleets—and several manufacturers at the Dubai Airshow are touting the benefits of their platforms as trainers for tomorrow’s pilots.

Embraer has found a foothold for its Phenom 100 light jet in the Middle East training market. Emirates Flight Training Academy was among the early customers for both the Phenom 100 and current 100EV, and Etihad Airlines also uses 100EVs for flight training. The UK’s Royal Air Force flies the Phenom 100 as trainers, as well.

“The advantage of using a very advanced jet like the Phenom 100,” said Claudio Camelier, Embraer Executive Jets v-p for sales in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, “is the students and future pilots will learn from the early phases of their flying how to fly airplanes that are integrated, with advanced, modern systems.”

Cirrus Aircraft, in addition to showcasing its flagship SF50 Vision Jet at the Dubai Airshow, expects to receive FAA approval in early 2020 for the Safe Return Garmin Autoland emergency system enabled by its Garmin 3000 flight deck. Cirrus is partnering with Emirates Flight University (Stand 1010; Chalet A31-A33) to display a Cirrus SR22, among the key training platforms in the Middle East. Both Emirates Flight Training Academy, which has 22 of the piston singles, and the Royal Saudi Air Force, with 24, use the aircraft for primary flight instruction.

Cirrus is “seeing interest from airlines and from other militaries in the region,” said David Moser, v-p, fleet and special missions sales, noting that “new academies expected to be developed in the region are looking for new fleets of airplanes.” The SR22 is well-suited “because of its performance in high density altitudes and hot weather conditions,” Moser said, pointing to its 310-hp engine, versus the 180-hp powerplants found in many trainers, not to mention the SR22’s air-conditioning system. 

“The real advantage of Cirrus, and why we’re seeing such interest, is the connection [customers see] between the technology in our airplanes and the more advanced airplanes pilots are going to be flying,” Moser said, echoing the comment from Embraer’s regional rep. The SR series and Vision Jet share the foundational Garmin avionics platforms that are also featured in the Phenom 100s. 

Underscoring the growing importance of the trainer market, Cirrus recently formally introduced the Track utilitarian interior for the SR22, “configured for the flight training organizations,” Moser said. That can include an optional landing gear simulator lever, with a three-light indicator system, and an instructor’s station for the right seat that can induce various fault indications requiring student response. Emirates is among the flight schools whose fleets are equipped with the landing gear simulator.

Meanwhile, Cirrus believes the Vision Jet could also become part of the global trainer market. “Historically, students have gone from single- to multi-engine pistons, to jets,” said Moser. “The first single-engine jet on the market is an opportunity to redefine that model. The operating costs of the airplane are so low compared to any other jet aircraft, that we think it will make a nice transition trainer” for pilots moving up to jets.

Diamond Aircraft (Chalet S5) is displaying, along with a twin-engine DA62 special mission aircraft, a DA40 NG. The four-place diesel-powered light single is aimed at the training market, as is its DA42-VI twin-diesel. 

With the limited supply of 100LL avgas in many parts of the world, jet-A-powered engines may be the only suitable option for some operators.

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