Dear Air New Zealand, I’m 19, I’m a Kiwi, and I want to fly for you…

27 July 2013 / by the GAA team / Consultation, Costs, Employment, Governance

As a trainee commercial pilot at the International Aviation Academy, when I finish my course (Diploma in Aviation – Airline Preparation) I will have PPL, CPL, MEIR (around 200hrs), ATPL subjects, a CPL night rating – and a $100,000 student loan.

But in order to get into the airlines, I need ATPL subjects (frozen ATPL), 100hrs Air Ops, 25 night hours and 500hrs total at the bare minimum, and it seems to me that there is a huge gap in the training process.

I want nothing more than to be a pilot for Air New Zealand; it is my dream and the reason why I decided to train as a pilot. It’s going to be difficult for me to try to get all the requirements for an interview with Air New Zealand without heading offshore.

With this new proposal to hire pilots from overseas, the job I hoped would someday be reachable is now something I will have to compete for with all nationalities to work as a pilot in my own country’s airline.

I understand the reason behind this change, but disagree that there are not enough pilots available in New Zealand for hire. There are hundreds of pilots like me who want nothing more than to fly for their national airline, Air New Zealand, one of the best and most highly regarded airlines in the world, but are unable to even get an interview because we are struggling to meet the requirements.

This gap in the training of pilots between a training organisation and the first air operations job is the reason behind your claimed shortage of available pilots.

I believe that rather than just give up on us and go for the easier option of hiring pilots from overseas, Air New Zealand needs to take the first step in fixing a problem that has been around for many years and is the main obstacle in pilot training. I believe that cadetship programmes and further introduction and integration into an airline job should be encouraged by airlines and I’m sure the required pilots will follow.

Katherine Abbott

katherineabbott1994 [at] gmail [dot] com

From the Dominion Post: Katherine is not alone

From the Dominion Post: Katherine is not alone. Double-click the image to read the fine print

Katherine shows a commendable degree of loyalty to her country. That commitment, regrettably, does not appear to be matched by New Zealand’s national carrier. What’s more, she is prepared to stick her young head up where others are reluctant to rattle the cages of powerful people who might affect their futures in a malign way. So please send Katherine a message of support.

The good news for Katherine’s generation: it will soon be a seller’s market. The Boeing 2012 Technical Report predicts that during the next 20 years, the global airline industry will need 460,000 new pilots, 186,000 of them in the Asia Pacific region.

The bad news is that, unless our State-controlled monopoly carrier (which also controls recruitment to its three regional airlines) changes course, Katherine and much of her talented cohort will be taking off to greener pastures – as so many of her predecessors have done.

Like Katherine, and a host of GAA supporters, we do not believe that there is a shortage of suitably qualified Kiwis to fill pilot roles at Air New Zealand. However, it is a fact that Air New Zealand’s failure to establish a secure path for the best New Zealand graduates from CPL to an airline career – instead casting them adrift to either work in New Zealand building hours for a pittance or take their talent overseas – is creating a rod for the airline’s back.

There most certainly is a shortage of New Zealanders who are prepared to accept serious pay cuts to return home, and recent Government and CAA blunders are very likely to result in a drop in our nation’s flight training productivity.

In the face of well-publicised predictions of a global aircrew shortage, the Government reduced the allocation of student loans for pilot trainees. It claimed, with scant evidence, that people were rorting the system.

Then, last year, the Civil Aviation Authority and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee introduced astonishing increases in compliance costs – ignoring all the warnings that they would damage general aviation, and flight training in particular. No surprise, then, that within months of the increases, two flight training schools closed their doors, citing compliance costs as the last straw.

If the application to add Aeroplane Pilot to the list of skills shortages (interestingly fronted by a high-gloss, pricy presentation from PricewaterhouseCoopers) succeeds, the endemic problems will remain.

New Zealand will continue to haemorrhage valuable and promising young people. It will also miss a golden opportunity to develop a world-class training industry that could help to meet the projected global demand.

Running ads on international recruitment websites is far cheaper than grasping the nettle and genuinely investing, long term, in local talent. Air New Zealand may find that if it is allowed access to the international job market, the law of supply and demand will truly kick in (and painfully).

Footnote 1: Readers are invited to Radio New Zealand’s Afternoons with Jim Mora. You can skip the introductory banter: Discussion of the issue begins 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the podcast.

Footnote 2: When it comes to fighting for the jobs of our people, Air New Zealand’s opponents are in good company. John Key’s National-led Government is asleep on the watch, but the British Government is not. Read what a UK Minister had to say to say about this problem, on July 25, in The Daily Telegraph