SOARING HIGH

Saudi Arabia 2020 | AVIATION | INTERVIEW

Infinity Aviation Academy is ready to play a full supporting role in building the local aviation sector.

Abdulaziz Alshehri
BIOGRAPHY
Abdulaziz Alshehri started his career at the Royal Saudi Air Force where he trained to become an aircraft engineer and flight technician. After six years, he assumed the role of training coordinator and technical instructor. He moved to work for the Saudi embassy in the US as a military attaché, after which he joined the private sector in 2008. He was a trainer, coordinator, and technical instructor at Alsalam Aircraft Company for two years. In 2010, he joined Alpha Star Aviation Services with the same capacity, taking a lead role in 2014. In 2017, he was tasked to lead the Infinity Aviation Academy, the sole accredited training center for rotary wing aircrafts.

Could you walk us through the milestones since Infinity Aviation Academy's establishment in 2010?

When Alpha Star was established, it had government contracts to support the public sector, and all its customers came through the government. By 2015, when we started expanding, the decision was made to maintain Alpha Star to support the government. When we won a government helicopter maintenance contract with the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MoI), we questioned why we did not pursue a contract for the entire support role, which included training. It had been sending its pilots to the US for training, with all the difficulties that go along with that, such as visas, logistics, and availability. We put forward a proposal to accommodate the flight simulator here and provide all the required training. Currently, we have an ongoing agreement with MoI for training. For services we do not offer here, we arrange it elsewhere. We have a great relationship with other training centers around the world and sometimes send people overseas for training and claim the cost from the government later. All training programs are delivered in-house, and all our materials and instructors are certified by General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA). For new customers, we go through a process to determine their training requirements and customize our standard curriculum.

Could you tell us more about your accreditation to conduct training courses?

No aviation company can work without a training department, because that department makes sure everyone meets the requirements of the various authorities, such as GACA. When the authorities issue the certificate for the business, they give the company the requirements for their pilots, mechanics, cabin crew, and other staff. To maintain their certificates and perform their duties, the company and its staff have to meet these requirements. The training department is in charge of ensuring that this happens. This means creating a training schedule and systems to evaluate and monitor, in addition to conducting the training required by GACA in-house. When we expanded and established Infinity Aviation Academy, we created another core business teaching non-employees. Now, we have agreements with certain governments to teach their pilots. They send their pilots to Infinity Aviation Academy for initial, ongoing, or advanced courses, and we do this for both the commercial aviation industry and the military. We have been certified as the first training center for rotary wing aircrafts, which requires going through many processes with GACA with full success.

Which direction is Infinity Aviation Academy heading toward in line with the latest trends in demand for aviation training?

The first step we do is a study of the potential business in the market we work in. In an aviation study, we calculate the figures and come up with the advantages or disadvantages of a business line. Infinity Aviation Academy is owned by PIF, and we are looking for growth on a smooth trajectory. Once we build up our name and introduce our services such that everyone knows the quality we offer, our market share will increase. In addition, we do a great deal of consultation work for MoI about how to build its training for technicians, pilots, and crew. It trusts us, and we take this workload off its shoulders. Today, we receive numerous requests from companies around the world that want to work with us. Setting up a training facility takes a great deal of time, including at least 18 months for the factory to deliver the simulator units, another month for installation and testing, and a year to get certified if there are no issues. At the end of 2019, we should host three simulators. We base our workload on the number of airplanes and pilots in the Kingdom because these figures control the feasibility of the business.