It’s that time of the year when the decorations come out and Christmas festivities begin! They certainly have at FTA, and we thought that this would be a great opportunity to reflect on the year just gone and the year to come with Sean Jacob, our Managing Director.
So Sean, what impact has Brexit and the Pandemic had on operations?
Covid has certainly presented some challenges, particularly in the early days. But as a small and agile school, I feel that we’ve been particularly well placed to overcome these challenges. At the beginning, we quickly set up distance learning for our ATPL classroom students which was successful and reflected in our first-time pass rates, which stayed high with an average of 94.4%. On the flight line, we quickly adopted new practices and we were one of the first ATO’s to resume flying under approval from the CAA and DoT. Now a certain amount of normality has returned and with continuing covid precautions, onsite classroom and flight line operations have resumed with minimal delays to our students. We have also faced challenges with Brexit, but we quickly adapted to offer Dual UK CAA and EASA Licensing as standard and included within the integrated and advanced modular package course fees, demonstrating our ability to react quickly and to give the best possible outcome to our students. Leading the charge in all of this has been our wonderful staff. Our ground school and flight line instructors, our Ops team and administration staff have all risen to the challenges faced and I am honoured to lead such a strong, dedicated and resilient team. Everyone has gone over and above the call of duty in doing their best for our students and as we move forward, I could not be prouder to be surrounded by such a strong team of professional, caring and driven individuals.
How does the future of the industry look?
There is no doubt that the airline industry has been hugely hit by the Covid Pandemic. Pilot shortage changed to pilot surplus overnight and the question on everyone’s lips is “when will demand return?”. Estimates range from 2022 to 2024, but we are already seeing signs of recovery. Whilst many furloughed pilots will return there are some who have moved into new careers, others who have let their qualifications lapse and others who have retired. We are seeing the supply chain for low hours pilots start to reappear: Jet2 have just relaunched their Apprenticeship scheme and many of our students have recently secured jobs with other airlines. Ryanair, Wizz, EasyJet, BA and Qatar Airways are all actively recruiting at different levels and with FlyBe looking set to become operational soon, the future certainly looks to be on the upward trend!
What do you think differentiates FTA from other flying schools?
There could be a great many answers to this question!
I believe we are still unique in offering both EASA and CAA licenses not only as standard but also within the course price for our Integrated and Advanced Modular courses. This is because we believe these Dual Licenses improve employability and options for our graduates.
Last year, we changed the ATPL Theory course from six months to nine months to encourage a better retention of information; a change that still pays dividends with our average 94.4% first time pass rate. I believe some other schools are now following our lead on this.
I really want to highlight the revised structure of our flight training which provides over 40 hours of extra hands-on Flight / Simulator training compared to the mandated, minimum hours, ‘standard’ Integrated Course, resulting in what we believe to be a more professional and employable pilot.
Given this, 96% of our Integrated students passed their IR test on their first attempt with 100% on their first series. Last year 100% of our Modular Students passed their CPL and IR tests on their first series.
Added to these strengths, our students consistently comment on the warm welcome and supportive nature of the school. At the heart of FTA, we support our students through their weaknesses and help them excel to their strengths. Each student is an individual, and we treat our students as we would want to be treated ourselves, as a valued customer and partner in training. Our student welfare team are an integral part to everyday life here at FTA, helping students find approved local accommodation if needed and being a support point throughout the student’s time here and after they have finished their training. I am also proud to mention our ‘Student Voice’ – a representative student group that provides a feedback mechanism from the students to senior management on a bimonthly basis, with minutes from that meeting published to all students. This allows us to better understand needs and views of the student body so we can continue to evolve and further improve on our services. There is an open-door policy across the entire school, meaning support and assistance can be always given at the highest level. Students have a ‘Primary Instructor’ for each phase of their flight training, allowing them to benefit from flying with different instructors throughout the course, yet having a consistent overview with a single instructor. All these elements allow us to have a personal relationship with all our students and keep their needs at the heart of their training.
What do you think the future holds for FTA?
We have recently celebrated our 15th Birthday and we are looking towards the next 15 years. FTA’s core aim is to offer the highest quality, customer-focused training experience to all our students. Our actions continually underpin this philosophy. We offer an innovative environment for theoretical, simulator and flight training to develop both a student’s trainability and their employability as an individual pilot. Our fleet is maintained by our wholly-owned maintenance company, allowing the aircraft to be kept in the best condition possible. We continue to review the latest developments in training aircraft, recently having had a visit from the new Sonaca S200 aircraft for our Head Of Training and Chief Flying Instructor to test fly. We look forward to when viable electric training aircraft are certified as well as progressing advances in the use of Virtual and Augmented Reality on accredited courses.
We have just welcomed our December intake of Integrated students to start their course, and next year is well subscribed on all our courses. We have introduced specific start dates for our Modular routes but remain flexible if needed. A large proportion of our instructors have a modular background, so we recognise and understand the needs of modular students. Our newly introduced Flight Instructor Courses continue to flourish with students receiving expert instructor training as well as a wealth of external speakers to broaden their knowledge base. At FTA, we move forward with care and attention to detail and we look forward to developing the hard and soft skills required for tomorrow’s commercial pilot.
Thank you very much Sean. It has obviously been a busy time at FTA! All that remains is for us to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a tremendous 2022!