The future of cadet programs

When this website was started back in 2011, the climate of airline cadet programs was at it’s highest levels with new and exciting programs opening up with world renowned airlines. Airlines even accepted applicant from foreign countries and no type of aviation experience or even passion. It was reported that Cathay Pacific was receiving over 16,000 applicants per month for it’s popular ab initio program (which is now only available to Hong Kong residents).

Now, it is 2017, and airlines have started backtracking and reassessing their programs because the “pay to fly” scheme is less attractive to applicants since that was the reason for applying in the first place.

Until recently, Cathay Pacific required no experience for ab intio, over 250 hours for advanced and 1,500 for transition. Now, you need to be a Hong Kong resident, 1,500 hours plus ATP subjects instrument rating etc… I must agree with the changes made here because this profession should not be easily accessed by anyone with a dream. With the exception of the cost of self-funded training, I think that a pilot, cadet or whoever, must have some sort of “real world” experience before sitting in the cockpit of some of the most advanced airliners.

There is a reason a cadet pilot will never actually fly the airliner for four plus years, or more in some cases. If you have not flown a Cessna 152 on your own or a Caravan full of passengers, making decisions, learning from mistakes, building situational awareness or even almost killing yourself, I’m not sure you’d be trusted to make decisions on a Boeing 777 moving close to the speed of sound with passengers throughout.

With that being said, you are being groomed to be a future leader in that company and you have your foot in the door into one of the greatest and well respected professions around. I think we can expect to see less international intakes and a bit more requirements for any advanced entry programs out there. This allows the students to be government funded and the airlines can actually make money as this is why cadet programs were introduced.

What are your thoughts on the future of cadet programs?

One thought on “The future of cadet programs”

  1. I actually have the opposite opinion. Far more airlines have started cadet programs and are using them now compared to a decade ago.. The MPL licence is now being used by more carriers every year for ab-initio entry. Light aircraft flying (the GA sector) is declining in a lot of the world so can’t be solely relied upon to provide pilots to airlines.

    The statement that you need to fly a C152 or Caravan for thousands of hours before flying a multi crew airline in order to learn situational awareness and decision making skills is false. Most carriers in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world have put 200hr pilots into the right hand seats of 737/A320’s and big turboprops, which is where they get the decision making and situational awareness exposure prior to becoming a captain. This includes some of the world’s most respected carriers like BA and Lufthansa.

    A proper cadet program isn’t a pay to fly scheme that accepts anyone who has the money and “a dream”. The quality cadetships have high standards for selection and training and history has shown they can provide trainees who are definitely capable of being proficient airline pilots. There’s also the fact a lot of pilots with thousands of hours flying single pilot light aircraft may not be suited to multicrew airline operations, and may have picked bad habits and attitudes that are hard to unlearn. Whereas a cadet programs can monitor and “mould” the attitudes of their trainee pilots in the ab-initio stage. Rex in Australia stated that they find their cadet pilots perform better in simulator sessions after a few years experience than pilots who had thousands of hours before joining the airline.

    In Cathay’s case the fact they still have the ab-initio Cadetship running for locals but not for foreigners tells me that decision was made due to politics rather than a statement on the suitability of cadet pilots. Their fellow airline down the road at Hong Kong Airlines have launched their own cadet program in the last few months.

    The only caveat I would about cadetships is that it’s important for a newly trained cadet to have as much exposure to individual sectors (take offs and landings) as possible after checking out, as this is where those critical flying and thinking skills are made, rather than the relatively placed cruise stage of a flight. For this reason the first aircraft they fly should be a 737/A320 or turboprop sized aircraft which does short haul flying and up to 4/5 sectors per day, rather than long haul 777/A350 aircraft in which pilots may only do one sector every several days. This is what European carriers with a mix of long and short haul aircraft do.

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