The Paramount Flight Academy will soon offer helicopter pilot training to air forces as it expands its aerospace offerings.
Ivor Ichikowitz, Executive Chairman of the Paramount Group, told defenceWeb that the addition of helicopter pilot training is a new initiative that will supplement its fixed wing fighter pilot component. The company is still deciding on which helicopters to use, but will offer training on a full range of Russian and Western aircraft, including Eurocopters and Bells.
Ichikowitz said that Paramount identified a need and demand for a dedicated pilot training academy, especially from small and medium air forces. He said that a number of existing customers are making use of the academy, while the company was negotiating deals with other potential customers.
Fighter pilot training was originally offered to air forces that bought Paramount’s refurbished Mirage F1s. Two F1s were sold to Congo Brazzaville and six to Gabon and other potential customers are being negotiated with. Paramount bought 21 ex-South African Air Force Mirage F1s in 2006.
The Paramount Flight Academy starts with English language conversion, moves on to ab initio training with the Cessna 172 and then progresses to the Aermacchi SF-260 military propeller trainer, Impala jet trainer, two seat Mirage F1 and finally single seat F1 fighters.
By using a single flight training school, Ichikowitz believes that training costs will be affordable for air forces. This is especially true as they will not have to purchase dedicated trainer aircraft or hire instructors.
Ichikowitz told defenceWeb that ultimately the academy would have a capacity of training 200 students. At present it is training 20% of this number, with capacity growing as needed.
Although he would not say where the academy was located, Ichikowitz told defenceWeb that it was based at a “secure facility,” but the intention was to use a number of facilities, such as Air Force Base Overberg, for training. “We have in South African an incredible training capability,” he said.
Fighter pilot training will take between five and seven years, depending on how fast students progress – often they have to learn English before proceeding with actual pilot training, as English is the international flying language.
John Craig, Chief Executive Officer of the Paramount Group, earlier told defenceWeb that Paramount has an ambition to grow its competence in aerospace. This includes the pilot training academy, F1 project and AHRLAC (Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft). Craig noted that the AHRLAC is the precursor to many other aerospace programmes.
In addition, the acquisition of Advanced Technologies and Engineering, which will officially take effect from Monday, will further add to Paramount’s aerospace offerings. Paramount Advanced Technologies will offer a wide range of services and equipment, from UAVs to avionics upgrades and more.