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BALPA calls for industry-wide apprenticeship summit

Following the news that the Government plans to create a new apprenticeship scheme for future pilots (read more here), the Britist Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has called for an industry-wide summit on how this might operate, which will deal with structure of the scheme, funding concerns and post-apprenticeship support. BALPA currently feels that too many airlines and flight training organisations exploit the desire of those who will sacrifice everything to fly a commercial aircraft.

Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of BALPA, said, “Once young people could enter the profession through airline sponsors, but now it’s the Bank of Mum and Dad that funds initial training which can cost up to £100,000.

“And it doesn’t stop there. Once trainees have their basic license they increasingly have to find another £25,000 to £35,000 to pay for the ‘privilege’ of building their experience at the controls of a big jet and get their type rating – licensed to fly a specific aircraft.

“For some it is simply way beyond their dreams to get into the profession. And all are building huge debts that will take years to clear and cause huge amounts of stress for them and their families.

“Some progressives in the industry (Flybe being the most notable) have shouldered responsibility for training, but too many airlines have been content to leave the market to sort it out by exploiting the desire of those who will sacrifice everything to fly a commercial aircraft.’

BALPA hopes that these apprenticeships will offer the proper support and a responsible pathway to a pilot career, but also believes that before this can happen, there must be wider discussion within the industry. It is hoped that discussion would include:

1.The current short term surplus of pilots. With some companies contracting or in consultation over redundancies (such as bmi baby). There is a need for government and airlines to work together to better predict pilot needs in the future and and help place surplus pilots now. It would be madness to pour public money into creating a bigger surplus.

2.The way in which the industry is exploiting new and recently trained pilots who are searching for the first rung on a career is unacceptable. It is even worse than the growing society problem of Interns as these people have debts of up to £120,000.

3.The Treasury needs to consider the tax treatment for training. There is no tax relief unlike all other professions.