By Wannapa Khaopa
Hua Hin - CATC may offer special courses in neighbouring countries to help train personnel
Thailand's Civil Aviation Training Centre (CATC) has been an accepted specialist training centre in this region for years. Being certified by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and providing hightech aviation equipment, lots of foreign students have chosen to study here.
However, the centre is looking beyond to spread its reputation to lure more foreign students at a time when more skilled personnel are needed to drive expansion of the aviation business in many countries.
Varintorn Liamnak, director of the centre's aviation business research and development division, said it has taught students from 78 countries in the 49 years since the centre was established back in 1961.
"Students have come - for example, from Germany, Yemen, Egypt, Bhutan, Mongolia, China, Korea and Vietnam," he said.
"We're leading trainers for aircraft personnel. We have digital aircraft, while others still use analog aircraft. We have more hightech equipment, compared to our neighbouring countries," said Air Chief Marshal Paiboon Chanhom, chairman of the CATC's board of directors.
"We've been a centre of excellence in Asia for years. Our centre is the only place in Asia that teaches a Science programme Bachelor's degree in avionics. And we produce engineers who can repair avionics equipment," Varintorn said. "We are the leader in safety, security and human factors of aviation."
All teachers at the centre are Thai. Most - 90 per cent of them - are from the Royal Thai Air Force. Each flight instructor has flown an average of 10,000 flight hours.
Varintorn said the centre had produced quality students who later became directorgenerals of departments of civil aviation in Laos, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The CATC is set to launch roadshows in China and Bhutan, and plans to offer more courses for students from Vietnam and Laos. It is also looking to "introduce" itself to India.
Varintorn said the aviation sector had expanded in Vietnam. The government in Hanoi supported Noi Bai International Airport but needed more aviation personnel, so it had sent students to study at CATC.
This year, the majority of foreign students are 100 Mongolians studying air traffic control and about 90 Vietnamese students doing different ground training programmes.
"With limited infrastructure, we can only boost the number of foreign students in the classroom a little as the current number of CATC students is near full capacity," Varintorn said.
"So, we are looking to create courses on request for other countries, and later send our teachers to teach tailormade courses in those countries. There is no problem with quality because we have course developers certified by ICAO who can develop such courses.
"We want more local and international students to recognise us. So, we will be able to recruit more topclass and quality students, too," she said.
CATC's second flight training center in Khon Kaen can support more foreign students looking to be pilots.
More than 40 programmes for a Bachelor's degree, certificate or basic courses and short courses are available there. Overall, CATC has close to 3,000 students.
Yu Ge or Dodo, who graduated with a commercial pilot licence from the centre last month, said: "CATC's got the high technology. I always focus on quality instructors here. CATC has the best of the best instructors from the Royal Air Force and Thai Airways International. We have good, patient, friendly and knowledgeable teachers. The environment in Hua Hin is pretty good.
"Under the ICAO standard, an aviation training centre should offer a percentage of flights over water, mountains and mainland. And we have the different conditions here day by day."
Dodo, who has been recruited for Shenzhen Air in China, said: "Another factor is that living costs in Thailand is much cheaper than overseas but the standard is the same or even higher.
"CATC is the most famous [aviation centre] in Southeast Asia. Its reputation is very well known. It made me very disciplined, more mature and gave me more seniority than before. My level of responsibility is greater.
"For people interested in being a commercial pilot, you have to prepare yourself well, have a good attitude, and make sure you are a person who learns about life," he said.
Recently, CATC welcomed members of the Thai press and others from Vietnam and China to fly with its student pilots in small planes to enjoy the magnificent views of Hua Hin, and learn how they study and are taught.
The good news for young people who dream of becoming a commercial pilot or doing other aviation jobs is CATC offers an opportunity for them to be a passenger in their small planes to witness how a pilot controls the plane and experience two hours flying a flight simulator. Also, they can do an introductory course on aviation.
A threeyear project will open again for applicants in December. People interested in being students with a passion for an aviation job can submit an essay, telling about their dream and passion for aviation jobs to win an great learning opportunity and join the course free of charge.
Other youths who can't win the essay competition can benefit from a special promotion. They can pay Bt4,000 each - instead of the normal rate of Bt8,500 or Bt10,000 - to learn the same.
For people interested in studying aviation related fields, CATC will join the Thailand International Education Expo 2010 to promote its training programmes. The expo will be held at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, from November 1921.
-- The Nation 2010-10-25