Major Players Focus on Flight Training at Dubai Airshow

A gathering of more than 50 aviation training leaders met in Dubai during the airshow, indicating the path forward for the region and worldwide to address pilot requirements.

From left: Max Buerger, Alexander Alvarez, Joel Davidson, Attie Neimanna and Cristopher Magdangal Courtesy:

While aviation training organizations in the U.S. weathered the COVID-19 pandemic with resilience and a quick return to normal, ATOs globally have seen varying degrees of success in bouncing back from the trials induced by the near shutdown in activity during 2020. But even those greatly affected are now responding to the renewed need for pilots worldwide.

That’s just one of the takeaways from a summit of more than 50 leaders in the flight training industry gathered in the United Arab Emirates following the Dubai Airshow in November.

Joining together with Emirates Flight Training Academy, market intelligence platform hosted a flight training panel that included the following representatives from around the world:

  • Alex Alvarez, owner and CEO of FlyBy, based in Spain. 
  • Joel Davidson. CEO of AeroGuard Flight Training Center, based in the U.S. 
  • Attie Niemann, owner and executive chairman of 43 Air School (Pty) Ltd., based in South Africa. 
  • Cristopher Magdangal, regional director, Asia-Pacific, for Alpha Aviation Group (AAG).

Alvarez shared how he managed to double his ATO in size during the pandemic, and he also provided insights into the European market.

Davidson provided the audience with an optimistic take, by sharing how quickly things improved in the U.S., and the strong pilot demand seen from U.S. airlines.

Niemann highlighted key areas that pilot training industry leaders should closely follow in the coming year, including supply-chain issues, digitization, and addressing the affordability of flight training.

Magdangal shared how Southeast Asia was still battling the pandemic, and how significantly the flight training industry will have shrunk in that part of the world as a result of the pandemic’s challenges.

The Dubai Airshow coincides with the UAE’s golden jubilee. Courtesy: EFTA

Coming Out of the Pandemic

Maximilian Buerger, managing director of, said, “As we emerge out of the pandemic we wanted to bring together the leaders of this industry to discuss the effects of the pandemic, provide market intelligence data and support collaboration to accelerate the recovery of this industry.”

In a further discussion with FLYING, Buerger underlined the disparity between ATOs in North America, Europe—and other more-developed nations—and the remainder of the world in terms of their ability to navigate the challenges of the pandemic. 

“For a year and a half, now, we’ve been collecting all these data points, globally, we have that data sourcing network, and let me tell you, outside of the U.S., it’s looking pretty crazy. 

“So in the West, in the developed world, you have flight training that continued in most countries, you had relatively short lockdowns, you had quick vaccinations, and—most important—you had government support.”

“Everywhere outside, you didn’t have government support. So, to give you a couple of examples. In the Philippines, before the pandemic, they had 44 flight schools. Now, they have...the number of flight schools operating in the Philippines you can count on one hand. Because there hasn’t been any government support and because the country has been locked down for a year and a half.”

Emirates Flight Training Academy (EFTA) launched in 2017 with an integrated flight training program using Cirrus SR22 and Embraer Phenom 100 aircraft. EFTA’s new campus and associated infrastructure will allow the ATO to train more than 250 cadets per year. 

Capt. Abdulla Al Hammadi, who is vice president of EFTA, said, “It is our honor to be hosting the first Pilot Training Industry Leadership Networking event at this year’s highly anticipated Dubai Airshow, which also coincides with the UAE’s golden jubilee. 

“The inaugural event is not only the first of its kind, but also a unique opportunity to bring together leaders and thinkers from the pilot training world to exchange ideas and discuss the future trends in the field. EFTA continues to contribute to the UAE aviation sector, with Dubai leading the global aviation industry on the path of recovery from the pandemic through bespoke innovations and investments.”

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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