11 August 2009

South Africa: Cathay Pacific Luring Pilots From the Country

Johannesburg — CATHAY Pacific, the Hong Kong-based airline, is recruiting in SA, a country highly regarded worldwide for the quality of its pilots .

In the latest edition of aviation magazine World Airnews, the airline called for applications from young recruits to join its 60-week pilot training course.

David Ryan, country manager of Cathay Pacific SA, said last week the airline had received about 70 responses and would begin interviews in Johannesburg early next year.

"SA is a steady, reliable market for Cathay Pacific. When we are actively recruiting, we endeavour to interview in SA at least once a year and we usually find candidates of high calibre."

While Ryan could not give the exact number of South African pilots working for the airline, he said the airline had about 100 pilots from Africa, making up about 3% of Cathay Pacific's flight personnel and had in the past recruited both experienced and ab-initio pilots.

Once accepted into the cadet programme, the recruits will begin with their training at Flight Training Adelaide in Australia and will have all expenses covered by the airline. After that, the new pilots will be offered positions as second officers with Cathay Pacific.

Anthony Laubser, president of the Airlines Pilots' Association of SA, said on Friday while there was no demand for pilots now, once the economy picked up there was likely to be an enormous shortage of experienced pilots. "So it is best to begin now as training an airline pilot takes years," said Laubser.

He said in recent years several experienced Boeing 747 captains had been recruited for Cathay Pacific's cargo division as well as a number of second officers for the mainline carrier. Singapore Airlines also recruited several experienced South African pilots last June, he said.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) CEO Colin Jordaan said earlier this year there had been a 5% drop in the number of new pilots in SA receiving licences , in the year to March, compared with a 13% increase last year.

Global demand for experienced pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers and technicians required an immediate intervention as it was a lengthy process to identify and train candidates.

Jordaan said the CAA was exploring initiatives to help develop sought-after skills in the industry, including a scheme to provide upgrade training for pilots and an African aviation training initiative for basic training for pilots and technicians.

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