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HEATHER RIVERS Updated: September 13, 2019
London will soon be home to Canada’s largest pilot training program, with a commercial flight and aviation leadership program — a first for Fanshawe College — that will begin training 80 new pilots a year.
While Fanshawe has had aviation technicians, aerospace manufacturing and remotely piloted aerial system programs in the past, its three-year advanced diploma in commercial flight and aviation leadership is the first pilot training program at the college. It will begin next September.
Fanshawe now offers programs to about 350 students focused on aircraft maintenance, but next fall will add 80 students to the school housed in the Fanshawe hangar at London International Airport.
“The goal of it is to teach all the business skills they need to work in the industry at the corporate level, and working in airports and manufacturing. But it also comes with a commercial multi-engine pilot’s licence,” said Larry Weir, associate dean of the school’s Norton Wolf School of Aviation Technology.
The program is a partnership with Diamond Aircraft of London and its flight training school, the Diamond Flight Centre, which will provide instruction to the pilots.
The students will learn in a Diamond flight trainer, the A-40, which Weir said is considered much more advanced than the single-engine planes most pilots learn to fly in.
Weir said there is a real need for more workers in the burgeoning field of aviation.
“The aviation industry is growing so fast. In North America alone, we need 220,000 pilots over the next 20 years and almost the same number of flight attendants, and about 114,000 aircraft maintenance engineers,” he said.
“Globally it’s 800,000 pilots. About 70 per cent of those opportunities are occupying positions already there, but another 30 per cent is growth — and there is amazing growth going on. Airlines don’t have the capacity due to a shortage of pilots.”
For airplane makers, ensuring there are enough pilots to meet demand is a priority, he said.
“You can’t sell airplanes if you (have no one to) fly them,” Weir said.
Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, a London-area MPP, was joined by MPP David Piccini, the parliamentary assistant to the province’s training, colleges and universities minister, to announce provincial approval of the project.
“This is a very, very important announcement for London and for all of Southwestern Ontario,” McNaughton said. “This will bring good-paying jobs to the people throughout our region.
“One of the things I keep hearing is the idea of comprehensive training for young workers. When we set young people up for success, we set the province up for success.”
Piccini said the three-year-program is a unique partnership in Canada.
“Our government has taken a critical step for aviation training,” he said. “The program offers a wide variety of in-demand trade skills.”
Fanshawe has introduced 54 new programs in the last five years, said Stephen Patterson, dean of the faculty of science, at the launch.
“The part that makes me so proud is the 87 per cent of those graduating students get jobs within six months,” he said.