We recently sat down with Johan Pienaar, CEO and Managing Director of Flight Training Adelaide.
When was Flight Training Adelaide established?
1982 at Parafield.
How many people does Flight Training Adelaide employ?
What services does Flight Training Adelaide offer?
We offer a number of services – all aviation related – we consider ourselves an aviation solution orientated company. We offer helicopter training, commercial pilot licence training, we offer the same for fixed wing, aerobatic training, ground theory towards commercial pilot licence as well as airline transport pilot licence. We also offer crewmen training on helicopter. And selection services for airlines who are looking to pick the right people to come and work for them.
At any point in time, we would have somewhere in the region of 260-280 students at the college.
Which companies do you work closely with in the aviation industry?
Our biggest customer and our most loyal customer since 1994 is Cathay Pacific Airlines. After them is Dragon Air who came to us in 1998. We have had a relationship with Qantas mainline, since the early 90s as well, but they haven’t trained for a while because they restructured and tried to get profitable again after all the changes, so no doubt they will be coming back to training again soon. Qantas Link has been with us for the last 4 years. We also are the trainer for Virgin Australia.
Can you share some of Flight Training Adelaide’s proudest achievements?
There’s probably a number of them. If you had to look at profile, probably our most significant achievement – when one looks at an award – is the national award for education and training which we got in 2007.
Last year (2015) we were awarded the Grand Masters Award from Prince Andrew for contribution to airline and pilot training worldwide.
Our biggest achievement is in the legacy of what we do. We have a success rate of 97% of the people we select will physically pass the course and nearly everyone who passes goes on to become an airline co-pilots and captains.
We’ve trained close to 2,000 pilots for Cathay Pacific. If you get onto a Cathay Pacific aircraft at any point in time, the chances are more than 50% would have come out of here (Flight Training Adelaide).
What opportunities are there within the aviation industry here in South Australia?
South Australia is a small state and it is a smaller economy. The opportunity that South Australia offers for employment is that it’s got clear skies, generally good weather for 9-10 months of the year, it’s got clean air. All these things offer a fantastic opportunity for anybody who wants to undertake or provide flight training.
One of the things we pride ourselves on is we don’t only train pilots, we also train flying instructors. We train 40 flying instructors a year at this college and I employ 50% of those flying instructors into my own business every year.
We actively work and support our staff who have done 3-4 years and have aspirations to go into an airline. We would actually help them get into an airline. I would service a proactive reference for them, because I know the airlines. We haven’t missed yet, so it is working.
Australia is viewed as the ideal environment for training
Especially amongst South East Asia. The benefit is we sit along the same timeline. They go and train in the US, they ask a question, they get an answer 17 hours later. Over here they ask a question and get the answer within 2 hours. That is significant because your response time is half that of training anywhere else in the world.
We have a huge country with vast airspace and geography, which means we are not as congested as any other training environments, which makes us a very attractive prospect when it comes to training safety and quality.
What opportunities would you like to see created within the aviation industry here in South Australia?
Work can be done in and around Adelaide with regards to the airspace with the military. The military has a vast amount of airspace out to the north that they don’t use 5% of. In their defence, they are very helpful when they can be but they have very rigorous procedures in terms of aircraft separation. If they have an aircraft taxing on the ground, we can’t fly through their airspace. So I think if Air Services Australia, Adelaide Airport, local government and the military can put their heads together and release some more of that airspace, I think we can probably attract more training into the area. We’d also be able to promote the safety message even more.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to start a career within the aviation industry?
Do your research. The VET Fee Help Program is fantastic. As providers go, we have the highest completion rate in Australia for people who enrol and we are held up as the benchmark in the Senate, whenever they promote VET Fee Help in the aviation industry. The most important thing kids need to understand is that it’s a loan, not free money and they can’t treat this course like a uni degree. No disrespect to higher education, it just means flying doesn’t work that way.
Flying relies on availability and continuity.
If you don’t have flying continuity, basically if you’re not flying every day to entrench the skill set, you unlearn it. And every time you have to relearn it, it’s costing you $300 an hour. So it’s a very expensive exercise. So I’d say to young people to go and find that provider that’s going to provide you with the best value for money, is going to be attentive to your needs and that will also nurture you and make you understand that being there and flying every day is important.
How has being a member of Business SA helped Flight Training Adelaide?
More than beyond the Export Awards. We would leverage a tremendous amount of HR support. Questions around industrial relations issues. When there are changes in legislation, whether it would be work health and safety, issues around unfair dismissal, or people and probationary periods. We have an open line and for our membership value that we pay, it’s invaluable. It’s a good service and if people can afford to be a member and they’re not, I reckon they’re losing out.
What does the future hold for Flight Training Adelaide?
Growth. I think we have probably grown as big as we can in Adelaide unless the airspace changes.
We’re a global player, although people might not think so, we’re a global brand and everybody knows about Flight Training Adelaide. We’ve trained for every continent in the world except for North America. Synonymous with Flight Training Adelaide, the word that comes to mind, doesn’t matter where in the world you are – China, Vietnam, India, Thailand – is quality training. We know we’re not the cheapest, but we’ve always provided a blue chip product. You get what you pay for and that’s the argument I will make.
With the upliftment of the societies in South East Asia, where you’re getting a much bigger group of people with disposable income, I think the growth of aviation is exponential.
The worldwide requirement currently is 20,000 new pilots into industry per year, for the next 20 years, based on aircraft orders. All the reputable flying schools in the world at the moment can only supply 12,000. That’s 8,000 in the world that are going to be trained to fly and they’re probably not going to train at the best schools in the world, but they’re going to be sharing the airspace with us. So I reckon that’s where the market lies.
Growth and, dare I say it, increasing our international footprint.