The Estonian airline Xfly, the Estonian Aviation Cluster, the Estonian Aviation Academy and the aviation training company Pakker Avio have entered into a cooperation agreement with the objective of training new pilots on the basis of a novel type of curriculum in cooperation and in relation to the expected increase in air traffic after the crisis. In the opinion of international aviation organisations, airlines around the world need more than 600,000 new pilots in the next few years. The new training programme has huge export potential. The project is also financed by Enterprise Estonia.
Xfly, the leading partner of the project and the biggest Estonian airline of all time, is often the first employers for local pilots. The company has become an excellent springboard onto the international labour market where the operators of bigger aircraft expect more flying experience from pilots.
Anton Õnnik, CCO of Xfly, said that the profession of a pilot has a major perspective regardless of the difficult situation due to the damage caused by the coronavirus crisis. “We foresee a rapid increase in the demand of the services of Xfly in the next few years, and therefore we estimate that just in Estonia, we require 70 additional pilots in four years. Since the national study programme of the Estonian Aviation Academy allows for training just 10 pilots a year, it is obvious that it would not cover our necessity even if all the young pilots were hired by us. Therefore, we launched a study programme in cooperation with our partners. The programme also has huge export potential,” added Õnnik.
The so-called MPL (Multi-Crew Pilot Licence) training programme complies with all the requirements of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and numerous European airlines use it. The advantage of the programme is a shorter but more intensive curriculum compared to regular airline pilot training, lasting 18 months. It has a clear focus of commencing work immediately after training in the airline organising the training. The difference from the four-year curriculum offered in the Estonian Aviation Academy is that once the training programme is completed, the student does not receive a higher education degree. Pursuant to the cooperation agreement, the Estonian Aviation Academy will contribute to the preparation of the theoretical part of the training programme by applying its expert knowledge.
Koit Kaskel, Rector of the Estonian Aviation Academy, fully welcomes the initiative of airlines for training new pilots. “I am extremely glad about this cooperation. It is an excellent example of the capacity of Estonian aviation for cooperating when needed in order to serve a common purpose – developing and increasing the competitiveness of our aviation sector on the international level. Becoming more international is also one of the obvious objectives of the Aviation Academy in order to stay competitive as an educational institution and thereby ensure the sustainability of Estonian aviation education for many, many years,” said Kaskel.
Pakker Avio Flight School is a long-term partner of the Estonian Aviation Academy for conducting practical flight training. Pakker Avio has trained practically all professional pilots who have studied in the Estonian Aviation Academy. Enn Eelmets, CEO of Pakker Avio, sees the new training programme as an excellent opportunity to promptly respond to the need for new pilots by airlines. “The MPL training programme opens up new opportunities for achieving the profession of a pilot and hopefully attracts more young people to aviation as this high-perspective profession will become much more accessible,” added Eelmets.
Kristo Reinsalu, Manager of the Estonian Aviation Cluster, said that in a situation where the pandemic has challenged the entire sector, we should look forward in order to make use of new opportunities. “If we wish to be among the winners after the crisis, it is inevitable that we must contribute to development activities and innovation. Estonia has high-quality aviation education which must be successfully exported. This project creates the perfect prerequisites for it,” said Reinsalu.