US-based management and jet card membership company Jet Linx has entered into a strategic partnership with Southwest Airlines, along with civil aviation pilot training company CAE, aviation safety risk specialist ARGUS International, California-based operator XOJet and iAero Group Arizona-headquartered operator Swift Air. The aim is to create a career pathway for pilots under a new programme called Destination 225°, that provides motivated and capable candidates with a career path from initial training to Part 135 and Part 121 certification.
Named after the southwest heading on a compass, Destination 225° addresses one of the industry's biggest challenges; a defined career path for pilots from initial training through to retirement. The programme represents a career lifecycle solution for pilots, facilitating entry into the aviation industry and providing opportunities for them to elevate and extend their careers. Participating Destination 225° organisations will be able to offer their most talented pilots the opportunity to move from one organisation to the next, without having to leave the programme. The programme also includes collegiate aviation institutions, military and other smaller aviation companies as feeders to the programme, to reach all corners of the industry.
Jet Linx president and CEO Jamie Walker says: “Destination 225° will serve as a solution to help attract future pilots to the industry by offering them a single career path from trusted industry partners. It's a great step towards helping address the future pilot supply pipeline.”
The partnership comes at a time when demand for pilots is at an all-time high and will increase exponentially on a global basis over the next 20 years. Boeing has projected that the industry will need to recruit 800,000 new pilots over the next two decades to meet the rising number of flights as well as workplace attrition. This is one of the biggest hiring cycles in history for airline pilots and the rigorous qualification requirements are creating competition for skilled pilots.
An additional component of Destination 225° will be an ab initio training programme that CAE will lead in cooperation with ARGUS. CAE will be training and mentoring student pilots throughout the programme, which will take a more competency-based approach to training versus a traditional compliance-based approach. The programme will take a closer look at the value of each flight hour and have a more in-depth evaluation of pilot-based competency. Destination 225º will career track pilots going through training with viable job opportunities through the programme's partnerships. The industry historically has evaluated a pilot's competency solely based on their total flight time. ARGUS will look more at what aircraft they received the hours in, missions flown, and details regarding training received. ARGUS will dive into the specifics of what the training incorporated and factor in elements that expand beyond minimum requirements.
“This will provide a lot of promising talent with a great opportunity and pathway to a quality commercial aviation career,” adds ARGUS vice president of business aviation Ed Wandall. “We are confident that this large scale data set will show the programme's effectiveness and change the industry's approach to evaluating a pilot's aptitude.”
CAE expects to screen, assess and train more than 700 new professional pilots over the next 10 years at its aviation academy in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 2002, the company has been providing training equipment to Southwest Airlines in Dallas, where it currently operates more than 15 CAE Boeing 737NG full-flight simulators (FFS), including CAE's 7000XR Series, and more than 20 CAE flight training devices including the latest XR Series suite. All devices are equipped with CAE Tropos 6000XR visual system and the latest Boeing 737 MAX FFS is scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2019.
Starting January 2020, selected cadets will begin the FAA pilot licensing ground school followed by flight training at CAE. They can choose between two pathways to gain the FAA Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) requirements: they can accumulate up to 500 hours as flight instructors then fly with either XOJet or JetLinx for at least 1,000 hours; or fly 1,500 hours as flight instructors at CAE Phoenix. The business jet pathway allows pilots to build their flying experience operating business jets while enjoying the quality of life, compensation and benefits of being an XOJet Aviation or Jet Linx pilot, including the opportunity to upgrade to captain.
The training programme is enabled by enhanced training, safety and operational reporting measures. Both pathways lead to a transition transport training programme that bridges experience from flight instruction to commercial transport operations. Once completed, pilots with the required experience can apply to Southwest Airlines as first officer candidates and undergo rigorous new-hire pilot training and Boeing 737NG type-rating training at the airline's training facility in Dallas.
“We’re excited and privileged to be partnering with this innovative career development programme,” adds iAero Group chief executive officer Robert Caputo. “The iAero Group team that was focused on making this happen, led by Swift Air president Jeff Conry and COO Boris Van Lier, looks forward to helping solve the increasing pilot shortage problem in our industry.”
Jet Linx is committed to delivering the highest safety standards, with extensive certifications including IS-BAO Stage III, ARGUS Platinum and Wyvern Wingman. In June, the company conducted its third annual safety summit, voluntarily grounding its fleet of 115-plus aircraft nationwide to bring together all employees to focus on the organisation's safety standards.