Aviation Rises: More pilots, skilled workforce needed

Published: Monday, September 19, 2016

The global aviation industry is projected to grow at an annual rate of more than 4.5 percent with a forward-looking view of its evolution maturing to an even greater force.

That’s based on various studies pointing to greater demand for travel from those living in advanced economies and the more than 6.2 billion people living in emerging economies who accounted for 25 percent of the trips made this year.

There is no denying that the aviation industry has become an integral part of any economy with great impact to related industries such as air cargo, logistics, freight, aircraft manuf-acturing and maintenance, tourism, steel, security, technology and more.

In its study about the global airline industry, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) pointed out there are now more than 2,000 airlines which operate over 23,000 aircraft, providing service to more than 3,700 airports.
Collectively, airlines around the world flew almost 28 million scheduled flight departures and carried over 2 billion passengers in 2006 alone.

That figure had since exponentially expanded with the global aviation industry’s annual forecast growth of 4 to 5 percent.

Manpower Shortage

In its Global Market Forecast for 2016-2035, Airbus said factors such as demographic and economic growth, tourism trends, oil prices, development of new and existing routes, and ultimately highlighting demand for aircraft covering the full spectrum of sizes from 100 seats to the very largest aircraft over 500 seats.

Its forecast entitled “Mapping Demand” which serves as a reference for airlines, airports, investors, governments, non-governmental agencies and others – anticipates that air traffic will grow at 4.5 percent annually, requiring some 33,000 new passenger and dedicated freighter aircraft at a value of $5.2 trillion over the next 20 years.

Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) for these aircraft would mean a business of $18 trillion and the need for more than 500,000 new pilots over the next 20 years.

Additionally, the aviation industry is projected to need more than 600,000 maintenance technicians over the next few years through 2031.

The shortage in experts and skilled workers in the aviation industry is particularly felt in the Asia-Pacific Region and the Middle East which have turned to global recruitment to address this problem.

Suhair Mohammed Saleh, director for human resources at Gulf Air, was quoted in the media as saying “future demand on Middle Eastern carriers will far outweigh supply.”

Bahrain’s flag carrier continues to encourage its people to lean on aviation careers to meet its demand for more qualified pilots and engineers.

In the UAE, Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways continue to admonish locals to pursue careers in aviation even as they recruit experts from overseas to fill in gaps.

Both airlines actively recruit personnel online apart from launching global recruitment for pilots, captains and first officers in major global cities as they saw record growth in their fleet and destinations.

On its website, Emirates Airline said a pilot with a successful application will start his or her career flying a Boeing 777 or an Airbus A380.

“Emirates is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world operating a modern fleet of over 200 wide-bodied aircraft across a global network of more than 140 destinations in six continents. With over 300 aircraft on order from Airbus and Boeing, the fleet size is expected to increase significantly by 2016 with many more to come,” it said.

Women in Aviation

Women in the UAE have successfully broken gender bias in the aviation sector as the demand for more experts in the field grows.

On August 28, the Emirati Women’s Day, Etihad Airways announced more than half of the UAE nationals employed by the country’s flag carrier are women, including nearly 50 pilots.

Eleven Emirati women are fully operational as pilots with the airline, while 38 others are navigating their way through cadet pilot training.

One of them is Aisha Al Mansouri, who in a report in the Emirates News Agency WAM, recalls being mesm-erized by the aerial performances at the Al Ain Air Show in 2007, and now she’s one of the pilots flying the largest passenger jet in the world.

“I fell in love with aviation during the 2007 Al Ain Air Show and joined Etihad the following year as a cadet. After qualifying, I started as a Second Officer on the Airbus A320, and now I’m a First Officer on the A380. I hope to become a Captain so I can train other aviators,” WAM quoted Al Mansouri as saying.

Mona Walid, Vice President, Human Resources for Etihad Airways and Etihad Airways Engineering, noted, “Since Etihad’s launch in 2003, the company has focused on attracting and developing both male and female Emirati talent. As we nurture the leaders of the future, we are committed to elevating Emirati women to the forefront of aviation to play their part in the growth of the economy.”

Of the more than 3,200 Emiratis employed by the airline, 1,661 are women – or 51 percent.

This includes the 137 members of the award winning, all-female Al Ain Contact Center, reflecting the appeal of Etihad as an employer of Emirati women.

Emirates Airline is also proud of its female aviation experts. One of them is American Ashley Klinger who flies its Boeing 777.

Capt. Klinger, who grew up in Arizona, said she incurred numerous challenges to get through where she is now, including huge student loan problems as she studied how to fly.

In the paid, it all paid off for this globetrotting captain who said, “Becoming a pilot was the single best decision I have made in my life.”

Since becoming a major entry point for destinations around the world, a number of aviation schools were established in the country.

Among them is Emirates Aviation University, which became part of the Emirates Group in 2001. Established in 1991, the university currently offers students different technical courses and postgraduate studies in aviation management to prepare them for a successful career.

Last year, Emirates announced it will use its new Flight Training Academy at the Dubai World Central to increase the number of female Emirati pilots.

Its future hub at Al Maktoum Intern-ational Airport will also include its own pilot training center in hopes of reducing its reliance or hiring foreign pilots.

Top Career Choice

A career in aviation and a wish to be employed at Etihad Airlines or Dubai airports are among the wish list of many expat and Emirati students surveyed by Universum, an international employment research company.

The poll conducted over a six-month period to more than 7,600 university students also showed Emiratis expected an average monthly salary of AED17,395 in their first job, while non-Emirati respondents expected AED11,888 per month.
When asked about their personal career goals, students of all nationalities and areas of study prioritized work/life balance, job security, and the chance to be entrepreneurial and creative in their career.

Claudia Tattanelli, Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Board at Universum, said it only shows that Etihad is now considered as one of the best places to start a career among the local youths.

“To be voted by students as the top employer in the airline industry within the UAE is a wonderful recognition that reflects Etihad Airways’ commitment to attracting and developing Emirati talent to build the nation’s future aviation leaders,” said Ray Gammell, Etihad Aviation Group Chief People and Performance.

The survey also revealed that Google is their preferred employer brand because of its friendly and respectful working culture as well as a creative, innovative and dynamic environ-ment that allow people to feel at home at work.

Google, they noted, also provides an incredible reference for talent’s future careers. Among Emirati engineering students, however, Masdar takes the top spot as the ideal employer for talent.

Ahmed Baghoum, Executive Director for Human Capital & Services at Masdar, said they are honored with the thought, adding, “talented young professionals make up one fifth of our workforce, and they truly embody our company’s innovative and passionate drive for sustainability.”

The country has invested billions of dirhams into low-carbon and renewable energy projects including Masdar City and the Shams solar power plant, both spearheaded by Masdar.

With aviation, proving so popular among Emirati job seekers, it’s no surprise that Dubai Airports also placed in the top 10 ideal companies ranking for both Emiratis and expats students across all disciplines alike.

“We are extremely excited about the fact that students from different specialities within the UAE are becoming more attractive to join the aviation industry and to Dubai Airports in specific. This is indeed a motivating and positively challenging journey for us to continue in offering unique benefits and exposure to attract and retain talent, so we achieve our vision to be the #1 leading Airports worldwide,” said Rasha Sbeih, Manager-Organizational Culture & Performance Management at Dubai Airports.

The UAE was one of six countries surveyed as part of Universum’s Middle East Talent Survey 2016, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Qatar.