Qatar Aeronautical College was established in 1977, and is based in the city of Doha just 15 minutes from Hamad International Airport. QAC is now one of the Gulf region’s leading providers of training for the aviation industry. Chris Long visited.

As His Excellency Sheik Jabor bin Hamad M. Al-Thani, Director General of the Qatar Aeronautical College (QAC), declares - the primary aim of the organisation is to supply well-trained aviation professionals for the nation of Qatar, and in particular for the national airline, Qatar Airways. It operates as an ATO, with the approval coming from the Qatar CAA.

The College operates from two airfields, the first site is at Hamad International Airport, and a secondary site is at Al Khor, located in the north of the state and is used for the early single engine practical (flight) training. The main buildings, shortly to be modernised, house the classrooms and administrative facilities, with the Pilot Training Department nearby, with immediate access to the runway from which multi-engine training takes place.

After selection there is a Foundation Department which prepares students for their studies at QAC. There are typically about 80 students in this stage of the training, and some 400 a year complete foundation training. After an assessment in English language competency, the Foundation Department then provides training in General English which lasts about 11-12 weeks so that the students can follow instructions in English, which is the baseline language for all College training. Courses are also run in basic technical knowledge and maths, as well as physics, and that stage requires a further 12 weeks.

For those moving to both pilot and air traffic control courses, the required standard for the General English is an IELTS score of 5.5 (the scale runs to a maximum of 9) and typically takes 11-12 weeks and tops up through the elementary level to upper intermediate level. Naturally further Aviation English training is required to achieve the ICAO Level 4 qualification before they practice their profession - this being assessed by completely separate and independent examiners.

Pilot Training Division

Unsurprisingly, it is the Pilot Training Division (PTD) which has high visibility at the QAC. This has been established since the early 1990s, and is moving with the times in an impressive way. Although the throughput is relatively modest, with some 30 students a year, the transformation in equipment to address present and future training patterns is impressive.

The principal course follows a Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) syllabus following the EASA model, but which leads to an A320 Type Rating issued by the Qatar CAA. For self-sponsored students the classic CPL/IR Integrated course is available. Although there is not a high demand for it, there is a PPL course available, which uses the legacy glass cockpit Piper PA 28.

The main aircraft fleet reflects modern trends in the selection of 10 Diamond DA40 aircraft and four Diamond DA42 aircraft, and the supporting flight training devices are tailored to provide the lead-in to the flight training.

These have been housed in a co-located, purpose-built facility, where both a DA40 and a DA42 FNPT 2 have been installed. These are the latest iteration of those devices, designed and built by Diamond at their facility in Wiener Neustadt, Austria and delivered in 2018. They are of course, exact replicas of the Diamond cockpits, and are equipped with the Garmin 1000 glass cockpit. The visual system is produced in-house by Diamond, and features a field of view (FOV) of 35 x 200 using a 3-channel cylindrical display.

A recent addition to the FTDs is an A320 fixed base device manufactured by TRU Simulation + Training, and which is EASA-Approved Level 2. The software load is to Airbus Standard 1.8.1, with IAE 2500 engines, Honeywell FMS and a 3-channel collimated visual display giving a 40 x 200 FOV, with day/dusk/moonlight/night options. It also features motion-cueing seats and smoke generation. This is well above the required specification for a FNPT 2 for MPL, but provides for an excellent lead-in to the A320 type rating, which is carried out with L3 Commercial Aviation in the UK. To support this stage of training there is also a 12-place FMGS training classroom.

In both ab initio courses the number of training hours exceeds the minimum regulatory requirement, so, for instance, the integrated course has 186 hours flight time, with 32.5 hours FTD, followed by a 40 hour MCC course (20 hours PF + 20 hours PM). The MPL progression features a core course of 75 hours and 30 hours FNPT, Phase 2 is then carried out on the A320 FTD.

Department of Meteorology

The training delivers the World Meteorology Organisation Diploma after a total two and a half years training at QAC, which is a regional training centre for that organisation. A degree course is included, which is run under a cooperation agreement with Reading University, UK. Students from 37 countries have trained here, and Qatari graduates are employed locally once they have completed the training.

A full range of ATC training is completed at QAC.
A full range of ATC training is completed at QAC.

Air Traffic Control

A full range of ATC training is completed at QAC, and this includes initial training for both civil and military controllers. Although technologically advanced systems have been assessed, the preferred option is to use instructor-intensive training, as artificial intelligence has significant limitations in flexibility and working with accents - a baseline for controllers.

There are locally-produced simulators for both airfield and sector controllers and the majority of the graduates are, once again, destined for work in Qatar.

Aircraft Maintenance Engineering

From its inception, the QAC has been training maintenance teams. Courses are run with a maximum of 15 students, and they undertake two years and three months training for a B1.1 licence. There is also a ground avionics engineering course of 10 month duration, as well as a CAT A licence course which takes 10 months to complete. Naturally there is quite a bit of theory, but it is linked to, and immediately made relevant with, practical training. This is new for a generation which is (overly?) familiar with digital games, and unfamiliar with manipulating “real” physical tools, so there is a lot of emphasis on that manual aspect which is new to them. Hands-on technical skills cutting/shaping metal, learning about torque wrenches and using them are taught early on. The feel of the weight for such tools, and the amount of physical strength need to handle both the tools and items of aircraft equipment, are all on that voyage of discovery. Work on actual aircraft is integrated into the training, with a (retired) fleet of Falcon 20, Piper Navajo and a Piper Seneca on hand to take apart and reassemble.

The On the Job Training (OJT) with the airline lasts for two years to complete the sign off.

Advanced Aviation Management Programme

As part of the wide portfolio of aviation disciplines, there is a two year course on Aviation Management. The entry level educational requirements are English and Maths at a one year higher secondary education establishment, and draws on a student population from a wide range of backgrounds, not necessarily in aviation. Three diplomas are awarded on successful competition - one from IATA, one from ATI and, of course, QACs own diploma. The subjects covered include airport management, cargo, civil aviation, and airline. These graduates too will go to Qatar on completion. Part of the course is spent with the Singapore Aviation Academy for OJT and observation of the real aviation world.

The net is cast wide for instructors to teach on such a wide range of topics; they hail from, amongst other countries, India, Sudan, Egypt and Jordan. Those in the instructor cadre all have a minimum of five years instructional experience.

Security & Immigration Management Department

With the rapid increase in tourism and, in particular, with the Football World Cup to be played in Qatar on the horizon for 2022, the Ministry of Interior identified the need for more Security and Immigration officers. Consequently it is the Ministry of Interior which shapes the content of the course and completes the selection of students - frequently from those who have already established themselves in another career. It is the role of QAC to help with the course content and to deliver it on the QAC campus. This is the only course at QAC which is delivered in Arabic.

A recent addition - the A320 FTD manufactured by TRU Simulation + Training.
A recent addition - the A320 FTD manufactured by TRU Simulation + Training.

The Future

The goal is to consolidate the training with selected new technology. There is no third party training for pilots, and the throughput will remain close to present levels. As most ATOs around the world are finding, the search for instructors is a constant challenge, in fact the ratio of pilots to aircraft is in favour of the aircraft!

Given that the aim of the QAC is to supply Qatar with a steady flow of newly-trained professionals, then it is managing that very well. The concentration is on maintaining quality rather than increasing the scale of the operation, and to keep the broad range of training disciplines at existing levels.

The Director General is keen to keep the QAC on a steady course and moving with the times. 

Published in CAT issue 1/2019