Chris Long travels to the Republic of Korea to explore the capabilities of the Korean aviation training industry.
For a country with a population of some 50 million, the Republic of Korea (ROK) has a considerable impact when measured against many global standards. From being in the top section of worldwide assessment of educational standards (PISA), to building the world's biggest ships, and with figures for 2012 that show that the exporting of high tech goods was worth in the region of US$85 billion, and automotive exports for the same year topping US$71 billion, there is very clear evidence that the ROK has both the skills and determination to build a very strong manufacturing presence on the world stage.
Civil Aviation With such a track record of achievement it is worth understanding what tasks and goals are being set in the realm of civil aviation – because the likelihood is that, in the long term, the ROK will again make its presence felt.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) is the Korean national aviation authority. MOLIT has for some time been building the essential support infrastructure for the industry. For instance, the need for an additional airport close to the capital, Seoul, was recognised early on, and this resulted in the opening of the first stage of the Incheon International Airport in 2001.
On behalf of MOLIT, the Director General of Aviation Safety Policy in the Office of Civil Aviation, Mr Kwon Yong-bok, sets the scene from a Korean perspective when he points out that the ROK is bound by sea on three sides of the Korean peninsula, with a virtually impenetrable land frontier to the north. Some 94% of all passengers, therefore, access the country by air, and, primarily driven by high tech exports such as memory chips and mobile phones, about 26% of international freight is carried by air. The Korean air transport industry is forecast to increase by 6.9% year-on-year, with international air cargo growing by 2.4%. By contrast, the air travel component of domestic transport is presently only 0.2%, and growth here is also expected to be strong as new Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) enter the market. The government's aim is to implement a coherent plan to draw together all the component parts of a strong aviation sector; that includes, for instance, updating national aviation law to embrace present and future realities.
Kwon is enthusiastic in the overall vision of the industry in Korea. He sees the future as one where Incheon International Airport exploits what he identifies as its favourable geographic position to become a dominant regional international and domestic hub, with the earlier airfield at Gimpo, in Seoul, continuing as a major provider of domestic services and a long-established international network.
Training Requirements MOLIT has acknowledged that such a rapidly expanding industry requires a strong training capability across all the disciplines in civil aviation. Often the first task that springs to mind is the training of flight crew. However, the equally essential need for a broader range of skills necessitates a correspondingly wide range of training capability. This is being fostered by several initiatives, involving 34 entities, including airlines, military organisations and academic inputs from universities and high schools.
The Aviation Human Resources Development Project addresses four areas which cover training for commercial pilots, maintenance crew, expertise in administration of international aviation and aeronautical engineering, and aviation internship programmes in a broad range of aviation disciplines.
Whilst MOLIT shapes policy and provides the oversight of the projects, the coordination of the separate elements of this government initiative is the responsibility of the Korea Civil Aviation Development Association (KADA).
Pilot Supply A major challenge for Kwon is the shortage of Korean pilots and the cost of their training. At the present time about 12% (about 580) of the pilot workforce is expatriate, and the vast majority of young Korean pilots presently have to complete their training outside Korea. The understandable desire to facilitate the path of Korean pilots on their way to a career, and also to respond to the rapidly-growing demand for more pilots to operate the LCCs, are primary drivers to boost the local pilot training capacity to match the predicted annual requirement of 450 new pilots.
Modern pilot training systems increasingly employ technology to improve instructional efficiency and, with some training patterns, significantly reduce airborne time. This means that training solutions which can work effectively within the geographic and weather constraints of Korean airspace are being evaluated. One avenue to developing self-sufficiency in ab initio pilot training could well be through cooperation with established international players.
Incheon International Airport The view in Korea is that aviation is very definitely a vital and significant contributor to the national and local economy, and as such has huge support at governmental level. The most visible evidence of that view is the Incheon International Airport. Opened in 2001, it has grown to see a throughput of 39 million passengers in 2012, and further extension is underway with the aim of being able to handle 100 million by 2025. Some scale of the operation is given by Mr Hong-Yeol Choi, Executive Vice President of Incheon Airport. He oversees an organisation of 40,000 people, and a whole new town (Airport Town) has been built nearby to provide accommodation for the entire Incheon airport population. Hong focusses on the duty free sales (USD$54 million in 2012) as a key indicator and trigger to continuing development. The aim is to create a virtuous circle whereby the revenue from those sales can be used to reduce airport charges, which would in turn attract more flights and therefore more passengers. Part of that same philosophy is to offer additional facilities, such as conference centres and golf courses, to attract further airport business.
The Incheon Airport Training Academy, situated close to the airport perimeter, has been certified by the ICAO Trainair Plus programme for the delivery of Korean-government sponsored training for developing countries. This facility is part of the overall plan to make the hub airport even more attractive by offering a full range of training, not only for the increasing numbers of operating personnel at the airport, but, importantly, for the many airlines that routinely use the airport. A prime market is the increasing number of LCCs, who tend not to have their own training facilities. These will have easy access to training at a major operating base – and this is not just for Korean operators, but also for other airlines from the region. The academy, which delivers type rating and recurrent training and is approved as a TRTO by EASA, offers courses on the Lockheed Martin manufactured A320 and B737 FFSs. ATC training is also provided using an in-house built simulator.
Courses for ground-based disciplines are also running, with a strong emphasis on making the airport experience efficient and pleasurable for the travelling public. Immigration staff are taught to rapidly and effectively process passengers, as are security screening teams. Everything from baggage handling, ramp manoeuvring and promotion of welcoming airport guide teams is included.
Korea Aerospace University With Government support, the principle training provider in Korea is the Korea Aerospace University (KAU). The KAU was founded as a specialist university in 1952, and continues to provide graduates for careers across the range of aerospace activities, from R&D, design, production and operation.
For its pilot stream the campus at Susaek, near Seoul, under Mr Yoo, Byung-Sul, Managing Director Flight Training Center, caters for basic training of both military (120 hours) and civil pilots (60 hours) using Cessna 172R,172S and Mooney M20J aircraft, with Frasca 142 FTDs as training aids.
Uljin Flight Academy In line with the government's active support and promotion of civil aviation, a further facility, the Uljin Flight Academy (UFA) has been delivering courses since July 2010. Established initially to address the local pilot demand, in particular for LCCs, this is a joint venture with the government being responsible for administrative and financial support as well as oversight of the whole project, and the airfield authority providing and operating all the airfield facilities. The KAU is the training provider, delivering the pilot training. The aircraft fleet consists of Cessna 172SP as the single-engine platform, with Diamond D42NG aircraft as the multi-engine trainer. These are supported by Mechronix FNPT2s. The build-up of the UFA is continuing, with the aim of achieving an annual throughput of 140 pilots.
Korean Air Korean Air has outsourced the in-country type rating and recurrent training to support its fleet of 145 aircraft and 2700 pilots (15% of whom are expatriate) to the aircraft OEMs. Kang Keun Seop, Vice President Flight Crew Training Center, points out that the ground school is carried out at the headquarters of Korean Air near the airport at Gimpo, and Initial Type ratings are carried out using instructor-led Boeing customised CBT and FTD. For the Airbus A380 fleets the ground school uses an FTD supplied by CAE's Simfinity programme. Mechtronix have supplied a fixed base FTD for A330 training.
Kang notes that MOLIT is now planning to accept competency-based training for Korean Air, and indicates that progress has been made in preparing adoption of EBT, initially using Korean Air's own data analysed by the training development team which has been routinely using feedback from training and operational sources. The data from the IATA EBT programme will also be assessed to evaluate its relevance to Korean Air training. Interestingly Korean Air allocates all its type rating and recurrent training through the respective OEMs Airbus and Boeing who both have training facilities at Incheon Airport. Additionally Korean Air and Boeing together broke ground for a new training facility near Incheon International Airport, where there will be provision for 12 FFSs.
Korean Air have a requirement that all new recruits have at least 1000 hours total time (usually achieved by accumulating most of the flight time in the USA). KAU run an Airline Pilot Programme (APP) for those who wish to be recruited by Korean Air. After a stringent selection process, students are accepted at a KAU facility based at Jeung Seuk, an airfield on the southern Korean island of Jeju. This airfield is both owned and operated by Korean Air – a possibly unique situation where an airline not only owns a fully-instrumented training airfield, but can if necessary operate it as an international passenger handling facility. Here the training consists of an introduction to multi-crew and jet operation. Because it is not a regulatory requirement, this course is shaped directly to what Korean Air wants, and is based on the Cessna CJ1 (the CE-525), which has a configuration similar to that used by Lufthansa Flight Training. Graduates of this system go straight onto a standard A320 or B737 type rating course.
Asiana - Maintenance Training Mr Ahn, Soung Ju, General Manager Maintenance Training, Asiana, is delighted to show the state-of-the-art maintenance training facilities integrated into the impressive new hangar at Incheon airport. Because these are right alongside the real time maintenance facility, the relevance of training in skills demanded by modern technology and materials is evident to the trainees.
The maintenance training center provides maintenance employees with 130 training courses including aircraft type rating as well as the diverse skill-up training. Annually more than 2,000 mechanics and engineers participate in these training programs to meet not only the demand of qualified maintenance staff due to expansion of company operation but also fulfill the requirement to maintain and improve their qualification and skill. One particularly interesting tool is shown off by Mr Ahn, Soung Ju, who, with his team, has developed a series of displays using actual aircraft electronic actuators, parts and wiring etc. in which realistic faults can be introduced and tracked, so that a wide range of practical fault diagnosis and tracking can be carried out.
Besides the training program for employees, the training center runs a vocational training course which fosters more than 20 maintenance apprentices each year. During the first year is classroom-based theory and the second year is practical training at maintenance sites and workshops. Asiana hires most of the apprentices who complete the two year course, thus sourcing qualified maintenance personnel.
Korean Aviation College The demand for aviation training has not gone unnoticed by non-government organisations. One example in this segment of the market is the Korean Aviation College, which has been supplying safety training for cabin crew since 2009, and has recently started ab initio pilot training courses on Cessna 172s. It has sourced some interesting locally produced FTDs and will continue to build the capabilities by acquiring a FFS, yet to be selected.
Determination There is no doubt that the ROK is determined to feature on the regional and world map as a training provider. The initial goal is to support the burgeoning national LCCs, but that is running in parallel with ambition to extend the reach internationally. It will be interesting to see how far the Korean model of training and operating will grow, but one thing is in no doubt – there is the same application to this task as there was to other industrial disciplines, and those have set a strong precedent.
Separate Sidebar Focussing on Incheon International Airport
This to include photos of Mr Hong-Yeol Choi, Mr Baek, Jeong Sun
The scale of Incheon International Airport is impressive. The land infill linking a group of 4 islands has resulted in a total surface area of 57 Kms2, with 18 Km2 of airfield, which accommodates 3 runways. A working population of 40,000 is already in place and this will increase when Terminal 2 is ready for the Winter Olympics in 2018. There is also provision for a fourth runway.