Logistics: Outsourcing Flight Training


September20, 2008:  Singapore is the latest nation to outsource basic flight training. Over the last six years ago, a commercial flight training company, ST Aerospace, has received several contracts for training pilots of support helicopters and fixed-wing transports. Singapore, like many small nations, has long relied on outsourcing much of its pilot training. The Singapore Air Force has about 300 aircraft and only 14,000 personnel. It can't really run a cost-effective pilot training operation for all the different aircraft types it has. So rather than have a large number of troops tied up in technical training organizations, Singapore has expanded the outsourcing of these tasks.

Even some larger air forces are doing this. Britain has been doing it since the late 1990s. For Britain, it was an attempt to solve the persistent shortage of pilots, and save some money. Military pilots often retire after twenty years, and not all of them go on to civilian flying careers. But many of these pilots, already collecting their military pension, could be induced to work for civilian firms providing flight training for new military pilots. The retired pilots have lots of experience, and using them enables the younger pilots to do the combat flying (which most of them prefer, to training duties, anyway.) The United States is experimenting with the same approach.

Experience so far shows that using the civilian firms gets the training done more quickly. The civilian firms get paid for results. Either the trainee pilot's pass their flight tests and examinations (both conducted by military personnel) or they don't. The civilian firm can be more flexible in their training methods and, of course, have their pick of highly experienced retired pilots. The British also found that, as the civilian firms were using their own facilities, the military could shut down theirs and save another 15 percent of the overall training cost. There are hundreds of technical jobs that the military could outsource, many of them more in need of skilled instructors than uniformed ones.



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