As the first training institute to launch a MPL programme in the Gulf, Aviation Business talks to Alpha Aviation Academy general manager Mustafa Ali.
Why has the Multi-crew Pilot License (MPL) been launched in the Gulf?
The MPL course is a very different way to train. Traditionally, pilot training was focused mainly on smaller aircraft and you would get 200-250 hours in that range. The problem was, learning to only fly a small aircraft was not relevant to a large sophisticated jet you was going to end up flying and given this training, it was not long enough to grasp all the information.
Did airlines have to retrain pilots?
Yes. Airlines would end up spending a lot of money getting you retrained on a more sophisticated jet. This has gone on for the last 60 years and as you can imagine the industry continues to come up with new technologies on a daily basis. Aircraft is changing all the time and definitely from 60 years to now, but training aspects have not changed, so industry and regulators saw this as an inefficient way to train pilots.
Can you explain the MPL course?
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) came up with the MPL course. It is called ‘multi’ because it is not flown with a single man crew but a two man crew. It is the most advanced training programme in the world. So we train right from the start, you need no prior flying experience, towards achieving a MPL.
How long is the course?
The course is scheduled for 15 months. For the first 6 months you train in an intense ground school and then spend 60 or 70 hours on a small aircraft. The rest is done on simulators, either Airbus or Boeing depending on what you want to achieve from it at the end.
How is the student assessed?
It is a competency based course so at every level and even within levels there is a competency standard which has to be met, this is set by ICAO. Unlike other courses where anyone can join up and attempt to get a pilots license, this course has a strict pilot assessment programme, which includes English Comprehension and Math.
There is also a pilot aptitude test which is hand and eye coordination done on a computer. If they get through this then that tells us risk to training is limited. Of course there will always be risk to training. I have been instructing since 1990 and I have never seen two students the same. You always have those who are quick at learning and those who are slower, so the assessment stage allows us to see whether or not risk is low. The ones that pass the aptitude and assessment tests will end up making that course within that period.
Where else in the world is this course available?
The only other place I know of is Alteon, Boeing’s commercial aviation training unit in Brisbane, Australia. They graduated 12 MPL cadets last November, who now fly for Air China.
Have you worked with airlines to start up the course?
Yes. Our partner is Air Arabia. The shortage of pilots in the region spurred them to approach us to start this course.
For more information visit www.uae.alphagroup.aero