At a recent ceremony in the airfield at Cork, Ireland, Ryanair announced a major training initiative as part of the plan to provide a regular source of new pilots. Chris Long reports.

VIPs, including Simon Coveney, the Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, were on hand to learn that this year will see the airline recruit 1,000 new entry pilots, and the predictions are for similar numbers in the future.

Captain Andy O’Shea, Head of Training, says that this is the first time in 30 years that Ryanair has become directly involved in ab initio pilot training. Ryanair has carefully selected an Irish training provider, Atlantic Flight Training Academy (AFTA) which has a long-term track record in providing competent pilots straight out of training to the airline and through completion of the existing AFTA MCC/JOC.

AFTA, based in Cork, has been established at the airfield for 34 years, and has gradually built up numbers and reputation over that time. Mark Casey, founder and managing director, is himself a current B757, B767 and B737 pilot, and is delighted to have secured what he calls “the biggest training contract in Europe”. This requires that 450 pilots be trained over a period of five years - 100 initially, then 150 after 16 months, thereafter with an annual total of 200.

Entry into the basic course will comprise an initial online application and screening, live selection exercises at Cork, and then interviews with both AFTA and the Ryanair HR department. Once the selection is successfully completed, the cadets embark on a 16 month long CPL/IR licence training, but with the specific characteristic of using Ryanair SOPs especially in the enhanced APS MCC. Each cadet will have an iPad, with a gradual rollout of Ryanair apps featuring B737NG performance, navigation charts, SOPs and safety procedures. Throughout the training there will be gates to check performance, very much in accordance with Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBTA) principles. Another critical feature is that each cadet will be mentored by a current Ryanair pilot who will help to share the Ryanair operations culture with instructors and students.

Benefiting from the single aircraft type operated by Ryanair, the B737 in both NG and shortly MAX versions, licence training will be followed by a Ryanair approved and supported Airline Pilot Standard (APS) MCC (regulated by AMC2 FCL.735.A and associated GM).

The development of the APS MCC was due to co-operation between EASA and the Aircrew Training Policy Group (ATPG) of which O’Shea is chairman. The AMC requires up to 40 hours of flight training and will take two weeks longer than the regulatory minimum in order to fully cover all the AMC/Ryanair procedures prior to the standard Type Rating training.

Evidence Based Training (EBT)

Although not formally labeled as EBT, this whole concept has been created as a result of experience gained over the years, and the observation of the strengths and challenges of previous training patterns. It is interesting to consider the primary characteristics:

  • Selection;
  • CBTA;
  • Mentoring;
  • Emphasis on CRM and TEM;
  • Training for specific type (B737) - with matching FTDs;
  • Training for a specific airline.

This could perhaps be considered as a MPL without some of the burdensome administrative tasks.

Entry Points

This preparation for Ryanair employment is not confined to the full ab initio course. Provision is made for those who are following a modular route to licence or who already have a basic CPL/IR and who in each case, simply plug into the relevant part of the training progression. This also applies to qualified pilots who wish to become instructors, initially with AFTA, but who after two years’ service, would be employed as co-pilots and eventually considered favoured candidates to be synthetic flight instructors (SFIs) with Ryanair.

For too many years a prospective pilot has had to calculate two primary risks - can I afford the training, and is there a job at the end? This initiative from Ryanair presently answers at least one of those; there is a guarantee of a job with Ryanair if the cadet completes this training pattern successfully. Ryanair hopes that every student progresses to a career in the airline, and the job security and a Ryanair co-pilot salary should address the first question. 

Published in CAT issue 5/2018