South African Airways (SAA) is investigating the possibility of using the in-flight relief pilot programme as a direct and meaningful contribution towards the development of future pilots for the airline industry. This is in line with the strategic objectives of the airline’s new long-term strategy, Gaining Altitude. The strategy requires SAA, among other things, to contribute towards skills development.
The programme aims to assist entrants to the airline’s Cadet Pilot Training Programme who have successfully completed the initial training. The airline believes that by providing in-house training, cadets will be familiarising themselves with the environment, the SAA culture and philosophy as early as possible during their development. Once enrolled in this programme, they will serve as In-flight relief pilots or Second Officers only on long-haul flights.
In-flight relief pilots will be deployed on long-haul flights where they will get exposure in certain areas. According to the airline, they will be expected to meet the high standards required by the SAA Training department and will be continuously subjected to rigorous development and assessment. It will take the cadets approximately three years before they could start training as First Officers on the airline’s narrow body aircraft.
The airline has responded to suggestions that the introduction of this programme will lower the SAA standards, saying they are “not true as the minimum requirements to become a First Officer with the SAA will not change.”
For those interested in applying for positions with SAA as First Officers, the minimum requirements remain 1 500 flying hours and a Commercial Pilot’s Licence. In addition, a candidate must have operated a twin-engined aircraft for at least 200 hours.