Bhanu Choudhrie first began his career as a strategic investor and philanthropist following the founding of C&C Alpha Group. Now one of the leaders in the niche aviation industry with Alpha Aviation Group, Choudhrie and his team are uniquely focused on solving some of the most dominant aviation-related issues facing the global aviation industry: a lack of trained and certified commercial pilots.
Following a report by Boeing, it was revealed that the aviation industry would require more than 800,000 additional pilots by 2040 to meet the grounding needs of the aviation sector. With a massive gender gap and a lack of interest from younger demographics, Bhanu Choudhrie and the Alpha Aviation Group are taking a new path toward solving this problem.
How COVID Grounded Aviation
A sprawling middle class combined with affordable airline travel created one of the biggest aviation booms in recent history. Unfortunately, a previously dominant industry was turned on its head when the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an era of quarantine, lockdown, and grounded planes.
Even though deciding to ground planes during the onset of the pandemic was difficult, Bhanu Choudhrie believes that it was the right decision. Choudhrie states, “We realised that a lot of restrictions were coming into place.”
While Choudhrie believes that stopping flights early on was integral, he also notes that the long-term impact will be hard to quantify. Due to COVID lockdown measures as well as the tragic impact of the pandemic itself, 2020 went down as one of the most turbulent and vitriolic years in aviation history. A report suggested that the U.K. alone has lost more than £271 million in the months since the pandemic began. Casting a wider net, we can trace the impact that globally grounded flights had on the NYSEA Arca Globa Airlines Index, showing a loss of 31% in just 12 months.
Despite the overwhelmingly negative impact that COVID-19 has had on the airline industry, and the many nations that rely upon it, there are reasons for optimism. Choudhrie notes that 2021 market indicators are positive for several nations, including China which has already reached 90% of its pre-COVID volume.
Avoiding ‘Boys Club’ Attitudes in Aviation
As the aviation industry tries to get back to normalcy, one sentiment won’t be easily dropped: a lack of female representation amongst pilots at a professional level. We understand through numerous global studies that roughly 95% of all commercially licensed airline pilots are men, leaving a profound gender gap that must be met to save the employment pool. This means that for every 20 flights, only one cockpit will have a female pilot.
To meet the needs of the aviation industry while championing gender equality, Choudhrie and Alpha Aviation Group have been uniquely focused on fostering appreciation and advocating for more female pilots. Choudhrie points to economic and socio-political reasons as to why the gap is so large at this point by saying, “There is still more that needs to be done to really challenge the long-held gender stereotypes.”
Operating out of the U.A.E., Choudhrie and Alpha Aviation Group have seen how social customs can impact the way that jobs are pursued or careers fostered. In the Middle East, traditionally women have been prevented from working at night, thus preventing them from ever pursuing a career as a pilot. With restrictions shifting and societal norms tilting in a new direction, it seems like more and more women are finding their way to flight school.
To underline how effective Choudhrie has been in fostering female empowerment within his training schools, Choudhrie highlights the success of its training programme in the Philippines. For the first time, their training centre had a completely female cadet class.
A push for gender equality coinciding with a market geared for upward movement has made it abundantly clear that the aviation industry might not be down for long. Only one question remains. What will the industry look like when it returns to normalcy?
As it turns out, there might be some real issues causing stagnation when the world returns to normal and a lot of it has to do with a lack of training throughout the pandemic.
Training in the Wake of COVID-19
While there are certainly optimistic markers for 2021 in the aviation industry, there is one through line that leaves everything unsettled – a lack of potential pilots. The aviation industry is particularly beholden to the whims of lockdowns and the problems manifested by social distancing. Many cadets travel the planet to train with pilots at different airports around the globe. With COVID-19 officially part of the public’s zeitgeist, there is concern that this old way of training is done forever.
Choudhrie understands that with 1,500 legally required pilot hours to maintain licensure, training needs will need to be met in new and innovative ways. For Alpha Aviation Group, this means hammering home the importance of e-learning.
Launched in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alpha Aviation Group stepped up to the plate to help cadets save money without losing time and progress. Choudhrie and Alpha Aviation Group would reveal their e-learning programme to better support cadets in training.
Originally founded in 2006, the Multi-Crew Pilot License Programme has been one of the true pioneers of the aviation world. Nowadays, the MPL program can give cadets the ability to learn everything they need to know about an aircraft and their duties within 18 to 24 months. While this is a rather extended period, it allows cadets the chance to access state-of-the-art pilot simulators.
Choudhrie says, “Alpha Aviation Group has invested very heavily in simulators.” With 11 simulators in the company’s possession, including a number based out of the learning centre in the Philippines, Choudhrie believes that Alpha Aviation Group can help every airline get a leg up when it comes time to train pilots for their specific crafts.
In addition to providing students and cadets with the chance to learn in a top-of-the-line simulator, Choudhrie suggests that its e-learning programme was primarily focused on providing a sense of continuity to cadets who were undergoing training when the pandemic hit. More than 700 pilots-in-training from the Philippines and UAE were able to continue their training due to the AGA programme.