SAA looks to in-flight relief for pilot development


South African Airways (SAA) is investigating the possibility of utilising the in-flight relief pilot programme as a direct and meaningful contribution towards the development of future pilots for the airline industry.

This is in line with the strategic objectives of the airline’s new long-term strategy, Gaining Altitude. The strategy requires SAA, among others, to contribute towards skills development.

Suggestions made that the introduction of this programme means lowering of standards are both reckless and spurious.
“We have taken a decision to investigate the possibility of putting together a programme to assist entrants to the airline’s Cadet Pilot Training Programme who have successfully completed initial training. This will enable them to receive more training in-house and acquire much needed experience in their journey towards becoming fully fledged airline pilots. Nothing about the minimum requirements to become a First Officer with SAA changes,” said acting Chief Pilot, Captain Sandy Bayne.

SAA decided to explore the possibility of providing training for cadets in-house as a way of familiarising them as early as possible during their development with the airline’s culture and philosophy. Once enrolled in this programme, they will serve as in-flight relief pilots or second officers only on long-haul flights.

The introduction of this programme neither replaces nor alters the requisite standards and proficiency levels to become a pilot with the airline. SAA pilots are subject to annual and ad-hoc audits by the local Civil Aviation Authority as well as audits by its codeshare partners. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) runs a full operations safety audit on SAA every two years.

As part of training and development, the in-flight relief pilots will be deployed on long-haul flights where they will get exposure in certain areas. They will be expected to meet the high standards required by the SAA Training Department and will be subjected to rigorous development and assessment. It will take about three years before they could start training as first officers on the airline’s narrow body aircraft.
“The much talked about 250 flying hours will form part of the requirement to join as second officers in line with international best practice many airlines across the globe follow,” Bayne said.

As the airline’s new strategy places emphasises performance excellence, SAA will continue to promote through its training programmes the maintenance of high standards, consistent with its good safety record which has become synonymous with the airline.

For those interested in applying for positions with SAA as first officers, the minimum requirements remain 1 500 flying hours and a commercial pilot’s licence. In addition a candidate must have operated a twin-engined aircraft for at least 200 hours.

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