Avion Express, the largest narrow-body ACMI operator in the world, has recently announced the launch of MPL training program by signing the partnership agreement with BAA Training, one of the TOP 3 biggest independent aviation training centres in Europe.
Today we are talking to Stasys Viltrakis, Vice President Flight Operations at Avion Express. Mr. Viltrakis will help us to get into some details regarding the requirements for an MPL candidate, find out the main values and sneak a look at the future plans of Avion Express.
How was the need for MPL training born?
The global airline industry is growing rapidly due to economic, technological, and demographic changes. Unfortunately, it is still facing a shortage of airline pilots. Passenger traffic is increasing and the demand for commercial flights is outweighing the resources, available to deal with the growth. In other words, there are not enough pilots to ensure the capacity, thus most airlines are competing for pilots.
A unique MPL training program is a great way to select and train young and ambitious individuals. Immediately after finishing the program, the trainees will be able to operate Avion Express aircraft and fit perfectly into the company culture. Striving to maintain the environment where everyone feels comfortable, it is important for us that all of our team members are driven by the same corporate culture and values.
With the MPL program not only are pilots trained according to the Avion Express regulations, but they are also immersed into the company’s culture right away. Therefore, once they graduate, they are familiar with all the processes of the company and fit right in.
Why was MPL chosen as a pathway for your future pilots?
There are a few main features of the program that are significantly important to Avion Express. First of all, the timeframe – MPL licence takes far less time to obtain compared to traditional pilot training courses. Secondly, this program prepares pilots who are ready to take a First Officer’s seat right away. MPL is also specifically tailored to satisfy the requirements and needs of Avion Express, as it integrates the company’s procedures. It means that when the newly trained pilots come to work for us, they already know all the specifics of the business, our policies and values. We pay a lot of attention to the company culture, so a pilot’s personality also plays an important role.
Another significant feature of this program is that competency-based training methods are included along with the development of communication, knowledge, leadership, and teamwork skills. The program also applies multi-crew human factors, and threat and error management in all phases of training.
In your opinion, what are the main issues MPL training solves?
Despite the current shortage of commercial pilots, the job market for pilots is still highly competitive – the completion of a training program isn’t a guarantee that a newly certified
pilot will land a job. Especially, when the requirements are quite high. Pilots need to have certain experience in terms of flying hours to be considered for the job.
However, when joining the Avion Express MPL program, future pilots, if they meet the standards of Avion Express, can be sure they will have a job with the airline. Once they are accepted, they receive a letter of undertaking. It means that after a successful completion of the MPL program, they get a place in our company.
It’s not a secret that being a pilot is a very responsible job. Not only do candidates need to strictly fit the requirements but also they need to fit into the airline’s culture. That is why MPL program was created with our company’s regulations and culture in mind – to make the adaptation process easier.
Why should a future pilot choose MPL program at Avion Express?
As an ACMI operator, Avion Express offers dynamic job opportunities – the airline’s operations differ depending on the situation in the market and season. Unlike charter or regular airlines, we provide plenty of flexibility to our crew, when it comes to both bases and routes. Depending on the season and project, our pilots are offered a wide variety of different operations around the world. In summer, Avion Express operates mostly in Europe. For the low winter season we send the aircraft and crew to Asia-Pacific or South America. There you might see that Avion Express crew can get diverse experience that is valuable for developing their professional skills and building their future career.
Working for Avion Express means flying for different airlines around the world – from such blue-chip companies as Thomas Cook Group Airlines, Norwegian, SunExpress to Sky Angkor Airlines in Cambodia, Sky Airline in Chile, Onur Air in Turkey, and others. Flexible approach especially appeals to newly qualified pilots, who are willing to gain experience in various conditions and markets.
Other than the competitive commuting roster pattern, our flight crew receives an appealing benefit package, including pilot loss of license and travel insurance, provided accommodation and covered travel costs.
What does Avion Express look for when recruiting new pilots?
Being a pilot requires a certain set of skills. Those skills are not only technical but also personal. It goes without saying that candidates must meet the minimum requirements. However, their personal qualities are also very important to us.
We have a flexible and open-minded company culture based on ownership and unity. Therefore, we are looking for team members who will stay for a long time and grow together with us. We support personal and professional development of our team members and provide opportunities for them to climb up the career ladder.
We value flexible pilots who strive to gain truly versatile experience. The aviation industry is very dynamic, so Avion Express pilots also need to be willing to adapt and upgrade their skills. One of the greatest changes nowadays is the shift to digital. Digital literacy is what we are looking for in the candidates. Avion Express cockpits are integrated with Electronic Flight
Bag that replaces heavy paper manuals. It also ensures more efficient flight planning and logging process. Although our flight crew undergo special trainings, it is important that pilots themselves are open to learn and improve.
What are the main values of Avion Express pilot?
It is very important for pilots to know that the company they work for takes the job seriously. There are a few main qualities that pilots value the most about Avion Express. First and foremost, it is safety. We know that it is our responsibility to ensure safe operations for passengers, so we put safety at the top of our priorities.
Then, of course, comes flexibility. Thanks to the diversity of operations of Avion Express, our pilots get to fly for well-known airlines in different parts of the world and get a very versatile experience. Their job brings exciting routes and changes into their routine.
Last but not least are trust and ownership. We at Avion Express are proud to have motivated and proactive pilots who don’t just do their job when they are on duty, but who also help us develop by noticing and suggesting things that can be improved. They care about our company and we trust their actions.
Are the requirements for pilots different in different regions?
Yes, they really are, since Avion Express operates worldwide and regulations and requirements differ from region to region. Therefore, Avion Express carefully checks all the specifics when assigning flight crew to a particular project.
Moreover, each region and even country has their peculiarities, starting from climate and weather conditions to language specifics. On the other hand, challenges that might arise provide experience and lead to professional improvement.
What are your cultural values? What is the most important to you?
We believe that only motivated and well-treated employees can deliver the highest results. Our company culture is based on flexibility, trust and ownership. At Avion Express every member is a hands-on contributor to the company’s success. We are also focused on professional and personal growth and long-term relationships between the company and employees.
Avion Express is the airline of opportunities for a reason. We offer career opportunities not only to our office staff but pilots too. Our approach is to constantly review the achievements of our flight crew and give them opportunities to be upgraded to Captains, Line Training Captains, Type Rating Instructors/Type Rating Examiners. The pilots of Avion Express build a caring community of professionals with different backgrounds who are passionate about their job at Avion Express. And we are proud to provide them with opportunities to grow with us.
How did the company’s face change as it grew?
Avion Express started from operating solely Saab 340. However, almost 10 years ago, our company set up a long-term plan to develop as an ACMI operator. The introduction of the first Airbus A320 aircraft in 2011 marked a new era in the history of our company. This is
when our path towards being the largest ACMI operator on narrow-bodies began. Constantly working on further growth, Avion Express currently operates the fleet of 22 Airbus A320 aircraft. As our company expands, it opens new markets and possibilities for the company and its team. To strengthen our position as the market leader, in 2019 Avion Express established Avion Express Malta, a subsidiary company based in Malta that operates Airbus A320 aircraft.
Avion Express client base has significantly expanded over the years too. The company has provided ACMI services to various airlines in Europe, Africa, South America, Asia-Pacific. Our clients include such airlines as Thomas Cook Airlines, Condor, SunExpress, Onur Air, Sky Angkor Airlines, SKY Airline, Norwegian, Royal Air Maroc, Tunisair, to name a few.
What are your future plans?
Avion Express has recently established Avion Express Malta – a subsidiary airline which opens new opportunities and markets for the company. Malta is an FAA-approved country which gives access to the US market and allows us to strengthen the leading position as a global ACMI provider on narrow-bodies.
Recently, Avion Express has completed its fleet expansion for 2019. In the summer, we are operating 22 Airbus A320 family aircraft. By the end of 2019, we are planning to increase our production result to over 60,000 block hours. As you can see, the company is further developing and working not only on its market position but also going forward and opening new possibilities to advance.