Waterford is proudly home to one of the largest pilot training colleges in Europe.
The Pilot Training College of Ireland (PTCI), which is based at Waterford Airport, was established in 2002 and currently features over 180 students on its books.
With an average of 14 students signing up for courses monthly, the college has added stimulus to the local economy, producing highly-skilled graduates.
This newspaper was recently afforded a look around the college and it was fascinating to learn about a local venture capable of producing persons qualified to fly passenger airlines, a significant feather for the regional economic cap.
“We’re now in the top five in our field in Europe” General Manager Sinead O’ Marchaigh told The Munster Express.
“A sizeable number of European pilots come here to train due to the fact that both air traffic and weather conditions in the south east skies are perfect for flight training.”
She continued: “Waterford is regarded as one of the best training locations in Europe, with the good weather, believe it or not, regularly commented upon as a factor in coming here to train.”
Once signed up with the school, students are sent to the PTCI’s Florida base for 14 weeks of intensive training for the purposes of acquiring their first pilot’s licence.
During two subsequent three-month terms, students learn the theoretical element of the trade while clocking up seven hours of weekly flying time in aircraft such as the twin engine Piper Seminole to the single engine Cessna.
“We are now responsible for 86 per cent of the Irish market when it comes to the training of airline pilots,” said Ms O’Marchaigh.
“We’re attracting increasing numbers of overseas students from across Europe, the US, New Zealand, India and South America.”
The college’s flight simulation cabin is a fascinating piece of equipment, providing students with a ‘virtual’ chance to fly over Dublin Airport.
We watched while students were instructed in how to fly over and then land at the airport, with speed, altitude and how to ease the aircraft down the key components of the lesson.
Fuel efficiency, dealing with variable weather conditions, all set against a realistic representation of our busiest airport, were also dealt with by the excellent instructor.
Graduate Cathal Healy, a County Cork native, began the 14-month course in 2006 and is now working with Aer Arann as a trainee pilot.
“I love planes,” said the 19-year-old. “I had my pilot licence before I had my driving licence, which is a bit unusual, I suppose. I graduated last November under the Airline Pilot Training Programme and I’m really enjoying my work. I really enjoyed the course.”
Those seeking a career change are also welcome at the college, as evidenced by the experience of former Intel accountant Carthage Minnock.
“I began my training in 2006 and I’ve now got a job with Aer Lingus and I absolutely love it,” said the Dubliner. Several former Waterford Crystal employees have also retrained themselves for a new career in the skies.
“We keep an eye on where our graduates end up getting work,” added Sinead O’Marchaigh.
“Ryanair and Aer Lingus take up the bulk of our graduates, followed by British Airways and other areas of the business including corporate jet work. A few have even gone to the Middle East and carved out good careers for themselves.”
Women make up a seventh of all candidates and this fraction is increasing annually. Wicklow-born Roseanne Kinsella, aged 24, with a degree in aeronautical engineering, began her studies in 2006.
“I qualified last December and not soon afterwards I received a job offer from Aer Lingus which I’ve accepted,” she said, happily.
Given the shortage of pilots in Europe, the college is ideally placed to provide its students with a springboard into a profession where a €100,000 annual salary is, in time, a possibility.
Indicators suggest that some 500 jobs will require filling in Ireland alone over the next year, due to Ryanair’s ongoing expansion and the recent new routes announced by Aer Lingus.
Low cost British carrier FlyBe has signed up to a new special mentor programme with PTCI, a further positive development for what can be justly described as a local business success story.
An assessment or trial flying lesson is priced at €295. Who knows, a new career might be just a short flight away. And at the Pilot Training College of Ireland at Waterford Airport, you couldn’t be in better hands.
For further information, call 051-876706 or log onto www.pilottraining.ie
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