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"All Those New Planes Need Pilots"



Tuesday, November 28, 2006

All Those New Planes Need Pilots
By John Gillie
The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune 


In the Middle East, the airline rumor mills say new $200 million Boeing 777s
are sitting idle on the ground part of the day because airlines don't have
enough qualified pilots to get them airborne. In China, a startup airline
canceled a large part of its schedule when it couldn't find enough pilots to
fly its routes.

In Africa, national airlines are complaining that their most experienced
pilots are being lured away by airlines in other parts of the world, leaving
them with sparse and inexperienced crews. And the airline news Web sites are
reporting some foreign carriers are offering American pilots twice their
officially listed wages to join their crews.

For The Boeing Co., such news is both heartening and discouraging.
Heartening because it's indicative of the fast growth of air travel and the
demand for new airliners in the world's most populous regions. Discouraging
because the pilot shortage could put a real limit on how fast Asian and
Middle Eastern airlines can grow and absorb the airliners Boeing is
creating.

For Alteon Training, a Boeing subsidiary that is one of the world's largest
trainers of airline pilots and personnel, huge demand for pilots, flight
crews and mechanics is creating brisk business.

At its Renton headquarters and its 21 other training sites around the globe,
the company's 1,000 employees and contractors are working to satisfy the
airlines' demand for personnel trained to fly and maintain the latest
airliners from Boeing and its rival Airbus.

The News Tribune recently talked with the company's new president, Sherry
Carbary, about the low-profile Boeing subsidiary's prospects and plans for
the future:

With airline orders running at record levels, how is Alteon's business?

Now we are very busy. Our projections show that the worldwide airline fleet
will more than double from 17,000 aircraft to 36,000 aircraft in the next 20
years, and all of those planes, of course, will need pilots.

With thousands of U.S. pilots laid off after 9-11, is there still an
adequate supply in the U.S.?

In the United States, we still have an adequate supply of commercial pilots.
But in the developing world, there is a tremendous need for new pilots.

How is Alteon working to help fill the demand?

We're starting a beta test program late this year in Australia to train
airline pilots in a shorter time. We're starting with 12 students.
Ordinarily it takes about three years of instruction and experience to train
a nonpilot to air transport standards. In our beta program we plan to train
new airline pilots in about 15 months using simulators and new instructional
methods. Simulator training is so realistic now that we can accomplish much
more training than we could flying real aircraft. And we can simulate
emergencies that we could never do in a plane. At the end of the program,
they'll be qualified to serve as co-pilots - first officers - in airline
jobs.

You've been in charge at Alteon for a little over a month now, what's your
initial impression about the business you now command?

I've been particularly impressed by the quality of the people, of the team,
working at Alteon. They are people who are passionate about flying. It's in
their blood. I was in Dallas a week or so ago, and I met one of our
instructors who is 89 years old. He started flying in a Taylor Cub in 1938.
He is among the most-requested instructors in our system because of his
knowledge and his devotion to the art of flying. And I'm especially pleased
that at Alteon we're already a true global company. We've already developed
a global network of training centers. We have facilities in 11 countries and
22 different cities. In the past, pilots had to come to Seattle to be
trained. Now they can get their training in a center nearer their home base.
It saves airlines travel time and money, both of which are big concerns
these days.

Is there anything new in store in the training scheme for Boeing's new 787?

For the 787, we've developed a kind of cafeteria plan in which an airline
that buys a 787 gets training points that the airline can spend any way it
wants. It may be an airline with a big pilot training center of its own, for
instance, that may want to handle pilot transition training itself. It can
use those points it saves by not training its 787 pilots at Alteon to train
its maintenance workers with us about new repair procedures.

Are you looking at expanding Alteon through acquisitions?

We're not considering any acquisitions now. We'll be keeping our plate so
full meeting the demand for what we do now, that we're concentrating on
doing that job for now.

Alteon at a glance

Founded: In 1997 as a joint venture between Boeing and FlightSafety
International

Acquired: Boeing acquired FlightSafety's share in 2002 and renamed the
company Alteon.

Headquarters: Renton

Locations: 22 in 11 countries

Employees: 1,000

Full-flight simulators: 73

CEO: Sherry Carbary

Carbary's prior assignment: Vice president of Strategic Management, Boeing
Commercial Airplanes

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