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Tue 1 Aug 2006 04:00 AM

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Who's going to fly?

Although Middle East airlines are rapidly expanding their fleets, with a record number of orders to date this year, news last month from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), worryingly shows that there might not be enough pilots to fly them.

|~||~||~|Airlines in the region are constantly battling large obstacles, including the rise in fuel prices. Now they face the biggest challenge yet — a major shortage of skilled staff.

Airlines are predicted to need an additional 150,000 additional employees to fly the planes on order within the Asia Pacific and Middle East. Many airlines have recruitment schemes in place and will not be greatly affected, but the industry is gearing up for the possibility that standards, especially safety, may slip to accommodate the extra employees.

Will some carriers, especially in markets where star pilots have been lured away by the whiff of more money, be forced to introduce fast-track training programs in order to have as many planes up in the air as possible?

Peter Harbison, executive chairman of CAPA, believes this may be the case.

He said: “Over the past decade, the industry has become amazingly safe, the number of deaths and crashes have both dropped. But the margins of error in which airlines operate might be reduced due to the staff shortfall.”

Airlines may be tempted to poach staff from countries that pay less, like China and India. The industry is well aware of the potential chaos the staff shortages could create.
In the next six months there will, almost certainly, be schemes in place to combat the skills shortage.
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