Pampanga, Philippines (Reuters) – With demand for travel expected to grow as countries rush to reopen their doors to international visitors, a flight school in the Philippines is ramping up training to try to avoid problems posed by a global pilot shortage.
Travel restrictions imposed to fight COVID-19 have caused a major disruption to the aviation sector, with planes around the world grounded and many pilots no longer flying, laid off, furloughed or forced to find work elsewhere.
“The important thing for us is to prepare ourselves and be one step ahead of the herd,” said Liv Alparis, head of training at Alpha Aviation Group, a pilot school with hubs in the Philippines, Britain and the Middle East.
“We have to be ahead of the curve and be ready for the next increase in employment.”
The expansion of vaccinations and the easing of restrictions in many countries has increased global demand for flights, and airlines are racing to restart routes after a long layover.
Flights in the Philippines dropped dramatically at the start of the pandemic, with no indications that the country plans to reopen its doors to foreign visitors or business travelers anytime soon.
Only 100 students are enrolled this year at Alpha’s local training facility, which is a third of pre-pandemic levels, with exorbitant fees and job uncertainty deterring potential pilots.
But at Alpha School in Pampanga province, northwest of Manila, full-motion Airbus flight simulators run all day to prepare trainees for real-world scenarios.
The program includes simulators, classroom lectures and flights on Cessna aircraft.
“Everything is uncertain,” said Casey Abadilla, 22, a flight student. “For me, there is no perfect timing to do everything.”
“Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith with the right amount of courage, hard work, and hope for the best.”
Reporting from Adrian Portugal. Written by Martin Petty; Editing by Ana Nicholas da Costa
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