SPREAD YOUR WINGS

Saudi Arabia 2017 | AVIATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Capt. Badr A. Alolayan, Managing Director of Prince Sultan Aviation Academy, on trainee pilots, Saudization, and expectations for the year.

 Capt. Badr A. Alolayan
BIOGRAPHY
Capt. Badr A. Alolayan's career in aviation has spanned over 35 years. He has served in numerous management positions including manager of flight training, fleet manager, assistant general manager for flight operations training, and flight operations inspector at the General Authority of Civil Aviation. On April 20, 2015, he was appointed Managing Director of the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy, a strategic business unit of Saudi Arabian Airlines.

What factors are contributing to the growth in the number of trainee pilots that we are seeing right now?

All parameters have actually gone up regarding this matter. Since last year, we have seen a clear increase in the number of ground training and simulator hours, and particularly the number of trainees grew by 30%. We are doing business for Saudia Airlines, which is our main customer and takes up almost 95% of all our work. However, the number of other agencies and airlines (national and international) working with us is also increasing. We just installed and certified two new full flight simulators and two new flight-training devices, which are for the B777-300 and the B787-9 aircraft type. This should attract more customers in the region, which is one of our goals for 2017. The B787 Full Flight Simulator is the latest model. Since many training centers currently do not have this model yet, it offers great business potential for us.

Airlines in the region expanding their fleets. How much does your scope of work follow the trends of the industry?

All the airlines working in the industry are expanding. Saudia alone has 133 airplanes. By 2020, it will have 200, maybe more. By 2030, the total number of airplanes will certainly be huge, so we have to be ready for that as we are the official aviation training center for the Saudia Airlines. There is demand, and there is competition as well, and some airlines prefer to have their own training center, so we are targeting carriers that do not have their own training centers. In the medium term, the number of trainees will definitely be doubled or tripled. We need to increase our budget to satisfy the local market. It takes time, and we are working with our holding company for this. We are aiming for privatization so that we can go fully commercial. Maybe in the future we can have a strategic partner that will give us more opportunity to maneuver for business.

The biggest push in aviation seems to be Saudization. Why is this important and how much do you contribute to this?

It is a part of the official Saudi vision for 2030. In the aviation industry, we have a great degree of Saudization. Saudia was established 82 years ago, and the first Saudia pilot training school started back in 1959. We are trying to achieve what the government is aiming to do in this regard. All parameters have actually gone up regarding this matter. We are currently serving Saudia Airlines and its affiliates, including Saudi Private Aviation (SPA), Royal Fleet SBU, Saudia Cargo, and Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries (SAEI). We also train others agencies and airlines, including the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), FLYNAS, Air Atlanta, Alpha Star, and ACT.

How important is it for you to engage with partners in the region and globally?

We have international partners that send their pilots to train with us. In order to do this, we have to comply with the authorities of other countries. We are recognized and certified by Boeing and Airbus. Since each government has its own civil aviation authority, training must take place under their supervision. We are also inspected every year by EASA. What we do requires a high level of professionalism; we are subject for audits and inspections throughout the year. This is a matter of safety, and when it comes to aviation, safety is the number-one priority and is the responsibility of all concerned parties. Therefore, every party has to be handled carefully. When I train a pilot here, I imagine my own loved ones flying with that pilot.

What are your goals and expectations for 2017?

So far, the first quarter has seen an increase in growth figures and that's good news. All the fundamentals are there for future growth, so that is what we expect. We are currently expanding. We have installed a new CBT System, which is computer-based training for flight deck crew, cabin crew, and flight dispatchers. By the end of 2017, we will go for distance learning or an e-learning system. The current learning method involves the trainee coming here and logging into a computer for self-training. This takes a lot of time. We are looking to have the trainees log into their own computer from wherever their location may be. The trainees can come here after they finish all the online lessons. So, for example, instead of coming here for ground training for three days, they can come here for just one day. As for the new equipment and the existing facility, we are looking to install new Full Flight Simulators and probably expand the main building or open another branch somewhere in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the near future.