A Pilot’s Life

 - October 8, 2007, 11:34 AM

One of Aer Arann’s busiest areas must be its personnel department: “We have experienced huge growth in the past two years, particularly in flight crew and operations. Given our current rate of growth, flight crew [numbers] have grown above 30 percent per year and will continue at 15 to 20 percent,” according to head of operations John Halpin. Of the airline’s 250 employees, flight crew account for 20 percent, cabin crew another 20 percent and maintenance personnel 10 percent.

Aer Arann’s Web site proclaims “no pilot vacancies,” while simultaneously encouraging the more ambitious to undergo speculative conversion training at their own expense. “A limited number of individuals have been selected on a self-funding basis whereby they paid for their own ATR type rating with a view to employment with Aer Arann upon successful completion of their training,” says the site. The operator will consider “all pilots meeting our minimum requirements,” applicants being enjoined to “clearly state if you would be interested in consideration for self-funding.”

Halpin declined to specify the costs involved, but stressed that a pilot with a valid ATP license, multi-engine and instrument rating and a certificate from a multiple crew cooperation (MCC) course does not have to pay for ATR ground school. “Only simulator rates and instructor expenses are charged,” he said.

When the Irish regional acquired its ATRs, initial crews were already type-rated or underwent “conversion” by the manufacturer in Toulouse, France. Under its TRTO (type rating training organization) approval, Aer Arann has begun to train its own pilots.

New hires undergo conversion training that includes three weeks’ classroom tuition for the type-rating ground phase. This is generally conducted with ATR course software, for which the airline has two licensed stations in Dublin. Ten days of simulator work follows, explained Halpin. “We also use an ATR cockpit mockup in Dublin. Fixed-base and full-flight simulators are used in Toulouse.” Aer Arann has an exclusive contract for dry lease of ATR simulator time, but other European capacity is available with suppliers, including CAE in Maastricht, Netherlands, Olympic Airways in Greece and Finnair in Helsinki.

New first officer candidates must have at least 500 hours TT, multiple-engine instrument rating, an MCC course certificate, a commercial pilot’s license (CPL) or “frozen” IAA/JAA ATPL and the right to live and work in the European Union.
Having joined the airline, pilots evidently remain loyal. “Turnover among permanent flight crew is very low,” said Halpin, who attributed some of Aer Arann’s attractiveness to unspecified “lifestyle” issues. During the 30 months in which the Irish regional has become most established, “the few departing pilots, which you could count on one hand, have gone to fly jets, or move closer to home [flying] similar types if they are not tied to Ireland,” he added.

Depending on experience levels, and subject to airline growth, new first officers can expect to apply for a command within as little as 12 months, said Halpin.

While he declined to discuss Aer Arann salary scales, in even the broadest general terms, he claimed that flight-crew rates are typical. “Salary and subsistence levels are more or less accepted as being within the parameters of regional airlines flying similar types,” said Halpin. “We are the only Irish regional airline, so it’s not easy to find a local comparison. Different European countries have varying degrees of taxation, so it’s hard to compare net incomes.”