First commercial aviation academy aims to reduce global pilot shortage

55-year-old Israel Air Force veteran and experienced El Al pilot Yochanan Shemer is currently overseeing the inaugural course of CAA, Israel's first commercial aviation academy.

February 7, 2019 17:59
2 minute read.
First commercial aviation academy aims to reduce global pilot shortage

An airplane belonging to CAA's commercial aviation academy. (photo credit: CAA)


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A staggering 635,000 new commercial pilots will be needed by 2037 to keep pace with the world’s growing commercial airline demand.

The figures published by Boeing last year provide an insight into the pilot labor supply issues that are currently threatening the global aviation industry, but also the opportunities presented to aviation academies hoping to fill future pilot pipelines.
Driven by the need to reduce the shortage, 55-year-old Israel Air Force veteran and experienced El Al pilot Yochanan Shemer is currently overseeing the inaugural course of CAA, Israel’s first commercial aviation academy, based in Eilat.

The first students started ground school studies in July 2018, and are expected to graduate in July 2021.

“The idea that El Al only recruits pilots from the Israeli Air Force is no longer the case,” Shemer, CAA’s CEO, told The Jerusalem Post.

“In Israel, the aviation world is particularly limited, with three main companies operational here. There is currently a very severe shortage of pilots in the world, and that shortage will also increase in Israel. The number of pilots that come from the air force to Israeli airlines is decreasing every year, and the number of pilots arriving from civilian studies is increasing.”

While others have sought to establish similar aviation academies in Israel, offering a full commercial pilot license to graduates, they failed immediately due to financial reasons. This academy, however, is already planning to welcome its second class of students in May.

The academy also offers two methods of assistance for those seeking ways to finance the hefty price tag of NIS 255,000 per course ($70,000).

Students can either pay for the course in 60 installments via a bank loan, but the academy also offers the opportunity for prospective pilots to work in Eilat’s many hotels, spending half a week at work and half in the academy.

“All of those arriving at the course are recently released from the army, without much money. They can take advantage of this opportunity to self-finance the course, and we can be flexible in terms of the days they fly. It works very well,” said Shemer.

As Eilat is exempt from value added tax, the academy can offer the course for 17% less than it would cost elsewhere in the country.

“There’s no doubt that it’s expensive, and people have doubts whether to do it or not, but those who have a dream to be a professional pilot and will do everything to realize that dream, I take my hat off to them,” Shemer said.

In order to provide students with the greatest chance of success, the academy also promises one-to-one guidance and even psychological support for every participant, in addition to the professional training.

Now, building on its early success, the academy has a range of ambitious plans for the future. These include offering flight courses for teenagers in Israel’s periphery where there is less exposure to the aviation industry, establishing links with universities to credit students taking flight lessons and, finally, to replicate the academy in the northern town of Rosh Pinna.

“In addition, we want to work abroad. First, to bring foreign students to learn here and, secondly, to open branches of the academy in other places that have already approached us, including China, Myanmar, India and Cyprus,” said Shemer.

“But I would be most happy to do so in Jordan, where we are also talking to a partner, if politically possible.”

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