MANILA, Philippines – Gokongwei-led budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air launched a new program to train would-be pilots in Australia.
Dubbed the Cebu Pacific Cadet Pilot Program, it seeks to address the airline's expansion requirements over the next 5 years. The training will be conducted in partnership with Australia's Flight Training Adelaide (FTA).
The aim is to train 250 Filipinos who will subsequently join the corps of pilots of Cebu Pacific.
"Over the next 5 years, Cebu Pacific will be investing $25 million to train 250 cadet pilots to become full-fledged First Officers and eventually Captains. The program will allow us to train homegrown Filipino pilots with best-in-class international standards," Cebu Pacific chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei said during the launch of the program on Tuesday, October 24.
Cadet pilots will undergo a 56-week program that features integrated flying training, flight theory, and education courses.
After completion of the program, the cadet pilots will become First Officers at Cebu Pacific, flying both domestic and international routes.
The airline will initially shoulder the cost of the training, with payments amortized through salary deductions over a maximum period of 10 years.
Changing the pilots' game
One major reason for the program is to address the need of Cebu Pacific, and the overall aviation industry, for more trained pilots.
Cebu Pacific vice president for flight operations Sam Avila noted that there are around 290,000 commercial pilots globally this year, while around 440,000 will be needed in 2027.
Of the estimated 440,000, around 180,000 need to be captains, and some 220,000 expected to be flying have not yet begun training due to prohibitive costs.
"It's expensive to become a pilot and there's no timeline for a return on investment because employment is not guaranteed, which limits the pool of pilots available," Avila explained.
He estimated the cost to be around P2 million to P3.8 million for a 12-month course which does not yet include license and certification expenses.
"This program changes the game in that it is company-sponsored so it broadens the selection pool to provide equal opportunities to qualified Filipinos of all financial means," Avila added.
Cebu Pacific said 16 candidates will be chosen per batch, with 3 batches of cadet pilots to be sent to Australia per year.
The application process begins with an online screening, followed by an on-site screening for core skills and pilot aptitude tests, among other examinations, where a fee of AU$425 or around P17,000 will be charged. Cebu Pacific and FTA will jointly select the final candidates.
The program is open to all Filipinos who are college graduates, proficient in English, and hold passports valid for at least two years prior to the start of the program.