World class training solutions
Flight Training Adelaide (FTA) is an award-winning flying college that has set the benchmark for flight training to airline pilots for more than 35 years. In that time, they have built long term partnerships with world leading airlines, continuously attracted export interest, and fostered unparalleled brand loyalty in the Asia Pacific region and beyond.
Johan “Pine” Pienaar is the Chief Executive Officer of FTA. Prior to joining the company, he served as an Air Force pilot in South Africa for almost 20 years, before moving to Australia and getting involved in civilian and airline flight instruction. His career in the country spanned multiple roles across Adelaide, Tamworth, and Nowra, culminating in his appointment as CEO of FTA in 2007.
In the years since, Pine has observed as the aviation industry has experienced many ups and downs, with the demand for training increasing and decreasing over time based on a number of factors. When he joined FTA, for example, he recalls “there was a shortage of pilots and all the airlines were recruiting.” Only a year later, the GFC slowed that momentum down. Fortunately, the most recent boom began at the beginning of last year, and Pine believes it’s the most sustainable he’s ever seen.
Today, FTA is taking advantage of that momentum from their long-time base at the Parafield Airport in South Australia. They now cater for sponsored cadets and self-funded students, and offer a full range of services, including selection, beginners, and advanced training courses for airline and general aviation students. They employ a highly trained and dedicated staff – roughly 220 people – all of them committed to ensuring the content of their courses exceed the expectations of their students – who number roughly 350.
The company’s client base currently includes major airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Cebu Pacific, IndiGo, QantasLink, Cobham, Virgin Australia, China Airlines and more. They were also recently appointed as the training provider for the new Qantas Group Pilot Academy in Toowoomba. That academy will offer purpose-built facilities and student accommodation, and will serve not just the Qantas Group but for the broader industry, too.
In a press release announcing the opening of applications for that academy, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce called it “a world-class training school for future pilots. He praised FTA as one of the industry’s “leading training providers.”
According to Pine, clients like Qantas choose FTA due to their unique training ethos, which has endured from day one. The college has always been focused, Pine says, “on producing future airline and helicopter captains, rather than simply training cadets to obtain a license.”
Pine believes that their airlines clients recognise that distinction, that they highly value applicants who have been through the rigors of an FTA course. The company’s long history of success proves him right.
“We’ve never been attractive in the marketplace because we charge the cheapest price,” he explains. “We consider ourselves a blue-chip provider. We offer a fully integrated solution.”
Part of that solution involves the students all living on site, with their living and working spaces located no more than a five minute walk apart, but with easy access to public transport for when they need to leave the facility. They are also fed three meals a day by “a very capable kitchen staff,” Pine says, and trained by equally capable instructors. Many of those instructors were themselves trained in-house, and they have been with FTA for at least three years.
Always listening, always improving
As a testament to the efficacy of their training, FTA has formed extremely trusting and longstanding relationships with the majority of their airline clients. They have been consistently training with Cathay, for example, since 1994. They have been involved with Qantas, off and on, for even longer.
Pine credits that loyalty to the “rigorousness” of their training, and the high expectations and standards they have for their students. He also credits the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia, who are closely involved in the design of FTA’s courses, and who accredit all of FTA’s testing officers.
“That ensures that if students are not good enough, they simply do not pass,” Pine says. “That’s the way we want it. We want to put people in the industry that exceed expectations.”
It’s not only airlines that appreciate the robustness of FTA’s process. Their students also find a lot of value in it.
As evidence, FTA does a significant amount of surveys – students are surveyed after the ground theory phase, surveyed after the flying phase, and surveyed regarding the accommodations, meals, and recreational facilities after completion of the course. Scores are given out out of 5, and in Pine’s 11 years with FTA, he’s never seen the company dip below an overall average of 4.
Pine believes the ratings have stayed so consistently high because FTA “actually listens.” He says that is one of their major strengths:
“We listen to the feedback we get from the students,” he says. “We don’t just beat our chest and say ‘We’re the best.’ We can hold our head up high and say ‘We can compete with anyone on the market,’ but what makes us different is we know we’re not perfect. We can always do better.
“If we learn there’s something we can improve, we do that in a timely and responsive way,” he adds. “We ensure that we’re always meeting our customer’s expectations.”
FTA has been rewarded for those qualities in other ways, also. For example, at the 2016 SA Export Awards – which highlight companies in the state making invaluable contributions to the local economy – FTA received the Education and Training Award. The next year, in 2017, they won the SA Training Award for Small Training Provider the Year. The year before, 2015, they were awarded the prestigious international Grand masters Australian Medal for “significant and meritorious contribution to airline pilot training.”
Pine says the company highly values that industry attention, because “it’s always good to be recognised.”
“It gives our team a real sense of pride to be recognised at a national and international level because of what they do, in the environment that they do it in,” he says. “It’s motivating. It’s a real morale boost.”
According to Pine, however, the company’s biggest achievement is the “legacy of what we do.” He says that “nearly everyone who passes our course goes on to become airline co-pilots and captains.” That’s what really matters to FTA.
Moving forward, Pine says their most important goal is to maintain that success rate – that’s more important, he maintains, than growing. The company is opening a second academy with Qantas, and they do have growth strategy, but “we don’t see ourselves being in a contest to see who can become the biggest global provider.”
“We are very happy to be branded a niche training organisation,” Pine says. “One that operates state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure, is passionate about they do, and that has ability to adapt to a fickle industry in a very timely manner.”
For more on Flight Training Adelaide and their world class aviation training solutions visit http://www.flyfta.com/