Mar. 19, 2021


Ismael S. Alkoshy

Saudi Arabia

Ismael S. Alkoshy

Managing Director, Prince Sultan Aviation Academy (PSAA)

“Our main goal at PSAA is to build that base to support the aviation industry once it recovers.”

BIO

Ismael S. Alkoshy was appointed managing director of the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy (PSAA) in July 2018. Before this appointment, he was the CEO of the Saudia Royal Fleet. His experience in aviation spans more than 32 years, and he has held numerous executive positions throughout the aviation sector. Alkoshy is an active pilot currently flying the Boeing 777. He has over 10,000 hours of flying experience as a pilot on the Boeing 777, Lockheed 1011, Airbus 320, McDonnell Douglas 90, and the Boeing 737.


PSAA is essential within the Kingdom's flight and aviation ecosystem and is in a sector that has been particularly impacted by the pandemic. How has PSAA managed the crisis both internally and externally?

The aviation industry has been the most heavily affected in terms of dealing with the pandemic. However, it was mostly passenger flights were affected; cargo flights are actually moving much more than they ever were before. Safety in the pandemic has been our main concern because if we did not have the proper safety procedures at the academy, we could shut down the entire aviation industry, since we train almost everyone in the sector. We had to be stringent in all of our safety efforts. Whether it is sanitizing our simulators or looking at practical areas for safety training, in all our procedures we take into consideration the Ministry of Health guidance and that of our sister companies. Like the rest of the industry, we moved forward with online education. The positive thing for PSAA is that we were pursuing this prior to COVID-19. We were ahead of the curve and did not require any major adjustments in our training provision methodology when the pandemic hit. Training is one of the things that is more cost-effective and easier to do online for airlines rather than scheduling and sending staff to training centers during their layovers. For certain classes where we felt there should be interactions between the instructors and participants, we had virtual online classes with limited class sizes to facilitate interaction. For certain courses such as CPR and opening aircraft doors and slides, we put enough stringent procedures in place to ensure safety when people needed to physically attend.

Did PSAA have all the technological pieces it is using today in place before the pandemic or did the pandemic accelerate your adoption of technology?

When we speak about technology, we see the significant gains that constantly occur. We are constantly in the process of evaluating new companies coming in with innovations for the training community. During the pandemic, we were also going through a major integration at PSAA. Saudia has 11 different strategic business units (SBUs), and because of that, everyone had their own training entities. All those training entities are being integrated into one, and PSAA is working through those projects now. So far, we have integrated all the inflight service training, where previously PSAA only had the safety portion. We also have ground operations training, aviation marketing, and general marketing for sales and ticketing. We are currently working with Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries (SAEI) on integrating all the maintenance training and all the other general education items we teach, from finance to English-language courses. We have been extremely busy during the pandemic. We have to incorporate all these other entities into the technology support we already had in place but could not do this with our current platform. We are also using another platform that was used by airlines, and we are shifting to a new platform in the future. This was one of Saudi Arabian Airlines' long-term strategic plans to make it more economically feasible, and the pandemic merely expedited the restructuring and reorganization process.

Did PSAA grow significantly in 2020 due to the restructuring of the SBUs' training delivery?

Yes, in 2021 it will make a major difference. PSAA is the oldest training academy in the Kingdom and the Middle East; we have been here for 61 years. Right now, we are bringing all these entities under one umbrella. All training will now be given under one roof by one training entity to all the players in Saudi Arabia. It is not about Saudia; it is about supporting the government and its 2030 Vision to support the growth in the aviation industry for all aviation entities. Previously in some areas of training, PSAA's doors were closed; we did not train other personnel except our employers employees. With this new vision, all of Saudia Group's training is under one roof, plus we are opening our doors to the rest of the market. This is really a gamechanger in Saudi Arabia.

Will PSAA offer training programs to the rest of the region or private entities as well?

As an academy, we have been providing training to all other private entities in Saudi Arabia and outside for years. We deal with many customers locally and internationally. However, the training areas that have been transferred to us now by Saudi Arabian Airlines' SBUs will be open to everyone. This includes competitors of Saudia, newly established airlines, and the small aviation players that were previously going overseas for training. This is part of the government's initiative as ultimately Saudia is owned by the government of Saudi Arabia, and we want to provide these services to everyone in the industry.

What are your expectations at PSAA for the remainder of 2021, and what do you hope to achieve by year end?

During these times, it is difficult for anyone to say exactly where we will be. I am hoping for the best, but we have to plan taking into consideration all the different possibilities that could occur. We have a great deal of work ahead of us with the integration and providing training. Our main goal at PSAA is to build that base to support the aviation industry once it recovers. The methodologies will change based on how COVID-19 affects us. We will have to cope with the changes and fluctuations in the pandemic on a case by case basis, as we did in the previous year. However, during this difficult transition, we all seek and hope for stability in the aviation industry and for the world in general. In the meantime, we will build on what we have now to support our government's vision, and based on the demand we are seeing in Saudi Arabia, we expect it to emerge strongly in the coming years. We are truly optimistic that once this pandemic slows down, we will see a real jump in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East for aviation travel. PSAA wants to ensure we are there to support it. It is a time for reflection, restructuring, and reenergizing the training industry to make sure we have the full capabilities ready to advance the industry in the future.