The Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow was once again host to more than 1,500 aspiring pilots on 3 November, as the second London Professional Flight Training Exhibition of 2014 took place, bringing together airlines, training organisations and universities from all over Europe.
The event welcomed a number of new exhibitors on board, including Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair and Indonesian carrier, Susi Air.
The seminars began with the eagerly-anticipated Virgin Atlantic spot, as Captain Graham Stokes, Head of Training and Standards, accompanied by a number of pilots and flight crew, presented information on the airline’s Future Flyers Programme. The fully-sponsored programme, run in partnership with CTC Aviation, offers potential pilots the chance to join the airline with no previous flying experience. This is the first time that Virgin Atlantic has offered a programme of this kind, and crowds packed out the seminar halls to find out more.
The two-week application window closes on 16 November. The initial course of six recruits will follow an MPL programme which is the first to have been designed to enable graduates to enter directly into flying wide-body, Airbus A330 aircraft as co-pilots on Virgin Atlantic’s extensive long-haul network.
During his presentation, Captain Stokes hinted that there may well be further recruitment planned as the airline is “looking to the future” with the arrival of a new 787, while CTC Aviation has stated it hopes the training relationship will continue.
Virgin Atlantic’s programme joins the already established British Airways Future Pilots Programme, which for the past two years, has opened to new applicants during the month of November. However, representatives from the flagship carrier explained at the exhibition that this year, recruitment is still on hold and for new cadet entry, the airline expects the next round of FPP to launch sometime in 2015.
While Virgin Atlantic and British Airways may be the top rung that many attendees aspire to, this year, seminar speakers included Kris Ingram from Susi Air. Ingram explained that the Indonesian carrier, which was recently featured on Channel 4’s misleadingly named documentary Worst Place to be a Pilot, is experiencing rapid growth. He urged attendees to consider that you don’t have to fly a Boeing 767 to have a successful and rewarding flying career. Susi Air pilots fly Pilatus Porters and Cessna Caravans, among a number of other aircraft on the fleet, from a wide variety of hard and grass runways throughout the islands of Indonesia and the airline offers an exciting challenge and a new way of life for many pilots.
Also at the exhibition, FTA made the announcement of a new BSc (Hons) in Air Transport with Commercial Pilot Training degree in partnership with Buckinghamshire New University.
The degree is aimed at students who wish to take the Integrated Flight Deck Programme and obtain a degree in aviation, with a view to pursuing a career in airline, airside operations or the airport industry.
Jonathan Candelon, Managing Director at FTA, explained, “With airlines now looking for more from new pilots, in terms of enhanced qualifications and commercial understanding, this new degree will give students a competitive advantage when applying to airlines upon completion of their course. We wanted to make sure, with the creation of this degree, that we’re offering a students an edge when applying for jobs in this competitive environment, and we feel the degree does just that. Also, should their path not go quite to plan, the degree gives them an element of flexibility to ensure they have even more options in their future.”
Other seminar speakers included Simon Witts from the Aviation Skills Partnership, Captain Ian Baston from Flybe and Captain Andy O’Shea from Ryanair. Exhibition Manager, Darran Ward, explained, ”With the amount of visitors who attended it was clear that becoming a pilot is back on the careers agenda with potential students. Even before the Virgin Atlantic announcement we could see interest was going to be a record high”.
The next London Professional Flight Training Exhibition will take place in April 2015, and in the meantime, the exhibition will hold events in Frankfurt on 28 February 2015 and Dublin on 14 March 2015.