Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Aussie flight school targets Asian market

New $2.3M Cape Breton institute will soon train pilots for commercial airliners

NANCY KING
The Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — Cape Breton is now home to a new flight centre that will train pilots qualified to fly commercial airliners to help fill a worldwide shortage of pilots, particularly in Asia.
The $2.3-million Cape Breton Flight Institute was officially launched Friday. Cape Breton is the right place to locate the school, even if the majority of its students are expected to come from Asia, CBFI president and CEO Bill Gardiner said.
“When we started looking around at the business opportunity, we came here to meet with the airport officials . . . and it became pretty clear to us from the beginning this is where we wanted to set up,” he said. “The facilities here are fantastic in terms of the runway facilities, control tower, hangar space, that kind of thing, and CBU is right next door, where we have all the facilities there that we can make use of.
“The co-operation was incredible. It was clear from the very beginning that they wanted to partner with us.”
Nova Scotia Business Inc. will provide payroll rebates of up to almost $750,000, as the institute reaches employment targets over the next five years. The company is expected to create up to 70 new jobs.
When it becomes fully operational within two-and-a-half years, CBFI is expected to have about 250 students, with 25-28 aircraft.
The company is receiving a $710,000 loan from NSBI for startup costs. Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. is also providing a $750,000 loan.
Pilot cadets from China will live on campus at Cape Breton University where they will also receive ground school instruction. Flight instructors will teach at the Sydney airport. Its management team has more than 150 years combined experience in the aviation industry.
The company has participated in five trade missions to China and is in negotiations with Chinese airlines. As many as two-thirds of new airplane orders are coming from Asia.
“That’s the fastest growing market in the world,” Gardiner said.
The Asian link was evident at Friday’s launch — it was kicked off by a traditional Chinese lion dance, intended to drive away evil spirits.
Then as they began to explore opportunities in China’s rapidly growing economy, that’s when the proponents came into contact with Grace Chum, a consultant NSBI approached to conduct a business study, and Dr. Annie Wong, an investor for whom the school’s first plane has been named.
“We think that it’s a good opportunity for Sydney to have these students, mostly from China to come here to be trained and I think that it will be a good prospect for this project,” Chum said.
CBFI now employs seven, which Gardiner said could grow to 10 by the time the first class of up to a half-dozen local students begins the year-long course in four to six weeks. They will eventually become flight instructors for the school, Gardiner said.
Gardiner noted that the Chinese students he expects the flight school to train are generally university graduates who have no previous flight experience and have undergone aptitude testing.
“They come to us, they’ve been screened pretty well, so we put them through a 12-month program, combination ground school and flight training,” he said. “When they leave here, they’re ready to sit in the right-hand seat of an airliner as a co-pilot.”
Graduates will receive airline transport pilot licences, issued by Transport Canada. When they return to China, that is exchanged for a Chinese licence.
The announcement marked the first official function for John Lynn, new vice-president and CEO of ECBC.
Cape Breton Flight Institute is a unique business opportunity that showcases Cape Breton’s ability to compete internationally in an increasingly international marketplace,” he said.
Bringing new students to the area will generate regional economic spinoffs, Lynn added.

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