BUILDING ON SUCCESS

Sharjah 2020 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Sharjah's aviation industry is showing signs of slow growth, but AAA recognized those warnings early and formulated a five-year master plan to expand globally, diversify, and limit risk.

Captain Nadhem AlHamad
BIOGRAPHY
Captain Nadhem AlHamad has been in the aviation industry for more than 28 years. During his career, he has amassed experience as a pilot, inflight services provider, CRM Trainer, and TRI/TRE. In addition, he was appointed to a number of senior managerial posts such as CRM Coordinator, SMS Manager, Head of Operations, CEO, Operational Excellence Delivery Manager, and General Manager.

How was AAA established and what have been its notable achievements?

AAA is part of a joint venture between Air Arabia and AAG-UK. It is currently the largest multi-crew pilot license (MPL) training program in the world open to national and international students. The UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has played an integral part in our success by embracing new innovative programs. GCAA is truly proactive in pioneering numerous aviation-related developments in the region. Moreover, we owe our success to Air Arabia's continuous support. Initially, many airlines did not accept the MPL program because it required it to be linked to an airline. Thus, the program's deployment is one of the greatest achievements for AAA and it is an achievement we share with the UAE.

Do all your students go straight into Air Arabia?

Yes. The MPL program is a four-year program with two years of academic training and another two years of practical training with Air Arabia. That is what makes the qualification so valuable.It is not just a theory certification; it also includes 1,500 hours of Airbus A320 experience. There is almost no airline in the world that requests more flight experience than that. Furthermore, students also acquire an Airline Transport Pilot's License (ATPL), the highest license one can get. This makes our graduates highly sought after around the world.

How many pilots and other instructors do you employ at AAA?

At present, we have 20 in-house instructors and another 28 through our international partnerships and associations. We started with seven employees and have grown gradually over the years. In the past three years, however, there has been a global shortage of instructors. We strive to retain our instructors as airlines around the world try to hire them by offering higher salaries. At present, we are successfully managing the situation, and AAA is opening multiple hubs worldwide. We are extending our flight training capabilities by opening facilities in the Philippines and Australia, where our first batch of students have already gone. We will likely open two more hubs in Eastern Europe and North Africa. Notably, we have a great partnership with the Etihad Aviation Training Center.

What is your opinion of the aviation industry in Sharjah?

The industry has grown considerably over the last 15 years; growth in the last five years has also been reasonable despite the challenges. Everyone has been anticipating economic development as growth was minimal. Sharjah, however, has conducted studies and one of the signs of growth is that the new airport project has been approved; this demonstrates the Emirate's continued focus on aviation expansion.

What other projects does AAA have under development?

Besides having satellite locations, there will be a possible investment in full-satellite branding somewhere in the world, though this is still being carefully studied. Looking toward 2020, we plan to combine pilot licenses with a degree, like an MBA in Aviation. Sharjah, in general, is also investing vast amount of resources in education. We still have to work out the details of our program with the Ministry of Education and are looking for a local Sharjah university to partner with. If the process on this becomes complicated, we may decide to go international.

What are AAA's goals and objectives for 2019?

We are way ahead and already planning for 2023. In 2019, we will form many global satellite associations for AAA and partner further with Air Arabia on a bigger development for the future—those are our two main goals. We also have a five-year plan, which includes a virtual reality program, expansion plans, and larger investments within the organization. The main reason we are branching out to multiple locations in different parts of the world is to diversify the risks.