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Flight School Readies Pilot Trainees as Travel Sees Brighter Skies

Planning ahead of the game.
by Reuters
Just now
Chief Flight Instructor Frank Desiderio, wearing a mask for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), operates a flight simulator at the Alpha Aviation Group campus in Clark, Pampanga province, Philippines, Nov. 3, 2021.
Photo/s: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

With travel demand expected to grow as countries rush to reopen to international visitors, an aviation school in the Philippines is stepping up its training to try to head off problems from a global pilot shortage.

Travel restrictions imposed to fight COVID-19 have caused major disruption to the aviation sector, with aircraft grounded worldwide and many pilots no longer flying, having been laid off, furloughed, or forced to find employment elsewhere.

"The important thing for us to do is to get ourselves prepared and be ahead of the herd," said Lev Albarece, head of training at Alpha Aviation Group, a pilot school with hubs in the Philippines, Britain, and the Middle East.

"We have to be ahead of the line and be ready for the next hiring surge."

Cadet Casey Abadilla, a flight student, operates a flight simulator beside an instructor at the Alpha Aviation Group campus, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Clark, Pampanga province, Philippines, November 3, 2021. Picture taken November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
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Expanded vaccinations and an easing of restrictions in many countries have seen global demand for flights grow and airlines racing to restart routes after a lengthy hiatus.

Flights in the Philippines fell dramatically at the start of the pandemic, with no signs the country plans to reopen to foreign visitors or business travelers anytime soon.

Only 100 students have enrolled this year at Alpha's local training facility, a third of pre-pandemic levels, with costly fees and job uncertainty deterring potential pilots.

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But at Alpha's school in Pampanga province, northwest of Manila, its full-motion Airbus flight simulators have been running all day to get trainees ready for real-world scenarios.

The program involves simulators, classroom lectures, and flights in Cessna aircraft.

"Everything is uncertain. To me, there isn't really a perfect timing to do everything," said Casey Abadilla, 22, a flight student.

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"Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith with the right amount of courage and hard work and hope for the best."


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