11 Young Pilots Compose the 1st Batch of Philippine Academy for Aviation Training (PAAT) Graduates

The graduates, front row : left to right, Farzad Ghasemzadeh, Barry Goesaert, Joao Dias, Felipe Alves, Michael Dos Santos, Erik Odegard. Back row: left to right, Dino Tabingo, Khedel Tan, John Gulla, Nuno Alves, Peter Binamira.

For 11 young gentlemen, finishing the much coveted type-rating course for the Airbus A320 aircraft is a fulfilment of their youthful dream to fly a big commercial aircraft. After all, Airbus is one of two commercial planes most used the world over.

The eleven ended their A320 type rating at the Philippine Academy for Aviation Training (PAAT) with the commencement exercises held at the PAAT in Clark last Sept. 21. After all of them successfully passed their check rides, they now form part of Cebu Pacific’s stable pool of pilots for its fleet and route expansion programs.

The graduates were: John Gulla, Khedehl Tan, Dino Tabingo and Barry Goesaert from the first batch; Michael Dos Santos, Erik Odegard, Joao Dias, Felipe Alves and Nuno Alves, from the second batch and Peter Binamira and Farzad Ghasemzadeh from the third batch. Together, these three batches received their certificates of completion during the formal graduation ceremony.

At the “send-off” graduation last Saturday, Barry Goesaert, who was in the first set to apply for the A320 type- rating course, expressed excitement, a sentiment shared by his peers, about finally being able to sit in the cockpit and be in command of a plane that carries hundreds of passengers and tons of cargo. Before, he only flew single engine cargo planes during his basic pilot training course.

The half Filipino, half Belgian Goesaert, who spoke on behalf of the graduates, said a recent study on Pilot-Technician Outlook showed that Asia Pacific region would need 192,000 pilots, the most in the world from 2013-2032. “And this is where we are!” he exclaimed.

Considering the heavy demand for pilots today, it is a very opportune time for aspiring pilots here and around the region to have “the best Airbus Type Rating Training Organization, i.e, the Philippine Academy for Aviation Training, giving us the best preparation for the real world,” Goesaert said.

“Whether we come from the Philippines, Norway, Portugal, Iran and that small country, Belgium, all of us trainees shared a common dream to become an airline pilot. The PAAT family helped us realize our dream. We all now work for Cebu Pacific. Everyone here at PAAT and not to forget the HR department of Cebu Pacific was extremely helpful,” he further said.

According to Capt. Jim Sydiongco, Vice President for Flight Operations of Cebu Pacific, who was among the VIP guests at the graduation ceremony, Cebu Pacific would need much more pilots for 2014 alone to service its increased fleet, flight frequency and routes here and abroad.

PAAT Head of Training (ret) Capt. Ronaldo Mendoza challenged the graduates to “go the extra degree” to make it big as pilots as he stressed that Cebu Pacific’s approach is to “hire for attitude and train for skills.”

John Gulla, another graduate said he was able to enroll at PAAT because his parents had long prepared for it. He took his initial flying lessons after taking a college degree on Aerospace Engineering in London and then his single-engine flying course was in the US.

He said he could have stayed and continued training in the US but he chose PAAT because of the “opportunity to work with Cebu Pacific after our type rating course and successful check rides,” Gulla said. For him, PAAT was his only choice for type rating because everything from training manuals, the course syllabus and the instructors were all standardized by Airbus, which is the manufacturer of the Airbus A320, the most widely used aircraft in the world.

Asked whether they have plans for another training facility in the Philippines, CAE’s Asia Business Leader, Tom Ferranti said the PAAT center is the only CAE training center in the Philippines with room to expand by the addition of more simulators and additional training programs.

No doubt, a type rating course can be expensive, but the returns and rewards are worth every cent, as the PAAT graduates can attest to. But students can get a loan from a bank by getting themselves pre-qualified for employment in an airline such as Cebu Pacific with the employment commitment as among the collaterals.

Aside from being assured of world-class quality training, one advantage of taking the Airbus type-rating at PAAT is that the trainees already have one foot in the door of Cebu Pacific which makes banks more comfortable to grant loans, said Arvi Perez, General Manager of PAAT. He stressed however that aside from Cebu Pacific, PAAT also offers its training services to all other domestic and foreign airlines.

PAAT has two Airbus A320 Level-D full flight simulators and one Airbus Pilot Transition Trainer (APTT) in its brand new two-storey training center at the Clark Freeport Zone. Two more simulators will be deployed in the future for a total of 4. The training centers also has 1 Computer-Based Training (CBT) room, 6 classrooms, 10 briefing rooms, 2 APTT rooms, a pilot lounge and a cafeteria.

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