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Philippine flight school trying to recruit more women to ease Asia's pilot shortage

Manila

THE Philippines' largest flight school is trying to bring more women into the cockpit to help meet a shortage of pilots in Asia.

At Alpha Aviation Group's campus in Pampanga province north of the capital Manila, one in five of its 550 students each year are women, whereas only about 3 per cent of the world's pilots are female, founder Bhanu Choudhrie said.

Mr Choudhrie said the group holds recruitment programmes at universities and invites female pilots to give career talks to students to encourage more women to apply. These initiatives aim to dispel the notion in the Philippines that only men can apply to flight school, he added.

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Boeing Co estimates Asia will require 266,000 more pilots by 2038, a third of the global shortage, as travel booms faster in the region than anywhere else. Understaffed airlines in the region have already been forced to cut flights due to the shortage. Some local carriers are setting up their own academies to produce more pilots.

Given widespread usage of English in the Philippines, the country is well placed to cater to regional low-cost carriers, which are now required by regulators to train their pilots in the language, Mr Choudhrie said. The school already trains pilots for local carriers, as well as VietJet Air and AirAsia India.

The rise of low-cost carriers, which mostly fly short-haul flights within the region, also makes a career as a pilot more attractive for women who don't want to be away from home for long periods of time, Mr Choudhrie said. "There is huge demand and men alone can't fill that. It's the women who will be the ones to drive this growth," he said.

Mr Choudhrie, who heads UK private equity firm C&C Alpha Group, could invest as much as US$12 million annually over the next three years to expand the Philippine campus. The school is looking to double its student intake over the same period and it has opened new facilities in La Union and Zambales provinces to meet demand.

Alpha Aviation is looking to open schools in two other Asian countries as airlines "fight for new pilots". BLOOMBERG