Irish flight school signs multi-million euro training deal

An Irish flight school has signed a multi-million euro contract to train pilots for one of the top airlines in Central Asia and India.

The four-year deal between the Atlantic Flight Training Academy (AFTA) based at Cork International Airport, and Air Astana, the national airline of Kazakhstan, will result in the creation of 20 flight training jobs at the academy over the next year to service the contract.

Supported by Enterprise Ireland, it was hailed last night as a major boost for Ireland’s aviation sector which will position Cork as one of Europe’s top flight training hubs.

Air Astana, based in Almaty, is the main airline and the flag carrier of Kazakhstan.

With some 3,500 staff, it operates a large fleet of narrow and wide-body aircraft and is awaiting delivery of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Named the Best Airline in Central Asia and India at the World Airline Awards held as part of last year’s Farnborough Airshow in the UK, it is significantly expanding its fleet.

It has now signed a contract with AFTA, which employs 45 teaching and admin staff, to send a group of cadets to Cork every August for the next four years, to complete 16 months of airline pilot training to fly its new Airbus aircraft.

The cadets will arrive at AFTA with zero flying hours to be assessed, and if successful, undergo a medical. Once they have passed both, they will begin their pilot training.

They will spend the 140-hours of flight instruction in the skies over Cork in single engine Cessna 172s.

They will then progress on to the super-charged Piper Seneca turbo twin prop aircraft for another 60-hours, to get multi-engine piston and multi-engine instrument rating, before taking an exam.

They will get advanced training in the academy’s ‘upset training’ Grob aircraft, and in its aerobatics aircraft, the Bellanca Super Decathlon, learning how to recover from stalls, spins and inverted flight.

But the cadets will also receive training in the academy’s hi-tech Elite FNPT11 flight simulator.

The flight school’s vice president and director of operations, Allen Field, said the training contract was a “significant endorsement of the academy’s high training standards and international reputation”.

“The academy has been in business at Cork International Airport for over 20 years. Our graduates are employed by airlines worldwide and we welcome Air Astana to AFTA,” he said.

Jennifer Condon, Enterprise Ireland’s head of internationally traded services and software, said that “this new contract with Air Astana is a major step in advancing their ambitions to become a leading provider of flight training internationally”.

More in this section