There is not much change in the unemployment rate of pilots in Malaysia since last year, said Datuk Azharuddin Abd Rahim, director-general of Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).
The number of unemployed licensed pilots as of August 2012 stood at 1,174.
He said the employment of pilots like any other profession in the world would be based on the supply and demand in the job market and the excess was noticeable since 2011 and soared last year when many of them made complaints to the DCA.
"In early 2000, there was a sudden high demand for pilots by Malaysia Airlines that Malaysia’s only flying academy at the time, Malaysian Flying Academy (MFA), was not able to cope.
"Following this, DCA had approved four Australia’s flight training organisations for us to send our student pilots," he told Bernama in an interview recently.
MFA is the only local approved flying training organisation (AFTO) in the country that has been producing pilots in the country.
However, Azharuddin said due to concerns on high cost and foreign exchange, Malaysian aviation entrepreneurs were invited to participate in the pilots training business.
In 2005, there were eight AFTOs in the country but three were revoked in 2011 for non-compliance of technical requirements.
Each AFTO were at one time capable of producing 50-60 pilots annually.
"In 2011, global aviation industry faced a spiral downturn with the rise of fuel prices. This resulted in airlines cutting down routes, not buying new aircraft and even ground their aircraft to review the operations, with no expansion," he said.
He added that as Malaysia does not have many airlines, the economic uncertainties which also affected the local airlines led to less demand for pilots.
To qualify as an airline pilot, privately funded students have to pay at least RM250,000 and a few good students will be taken as cadets by airlines and sponsored by the airlines.
Student pilots need to pass a few levels from student pilot to commercial pilot, then upgraded to airline transport pilot licence, which is the highest level which will take them 18 months to two years to complete without unnecessary obstacles.
Azharuddin said to address the unemployment issue, DCA has set up a registration centre on the department’s website to help those who are unable to get employment.
However, he said the response was low with less than 500 people registered to date, thus the department was unable to track and get actual figures of the unemployed.
"We have also encourage airlines to employ these licensed pilot but the intake was not significant though Malindo, Firefly, MASwings and AirAsia still employ at a small number.
"Some of pilots have also gone to work overseas like Indonesia, and a few have become flying instructors at flying schools. Some had also converted the licence to helicopter where we still see a shortage.
"However, to convert from fixed wings to helicopter is a bit difficult as it is actually much easier to fly airplanes compared with helicopter," said Azharuddin.
Student intake at the flying schools had also reduced as requested by the DCA, besides the less demand due to lack of job opportunities.
This has also driven the schools to look at the China market for students as the demand for pilots in thatcountry is still very high.-- Bernama