MARIGOT–A project to create a pilot training centre in St. Martin with a flight simulator has been proposed by Air Antilles Managing Director Eric Koury at a press conference in Hotel de la Collectivité on Thursday afternoon.
Apparently, there is no training centre in the Caribbean with simulators specifically for ATR 42 and ATR 72-600, the most commonly used short-haul aircraft in the region. At least 35 ATRs are in service with 280 pilots, and at least 150 ATRs are in service in Latin America.
The nearest ATR simulator training centre for the Caribbean is either Miami or Bogota, and further away in Toulouse, Paris and Singapore. One plane generates 150 hours of mandatory simulator training per year.
The other reason for the need for a simulator training centre in the Caribbean is the increase in the number of ATRs being sold. Some 80 to 100 new planes are sold per year.
President of the Collectivité Daniel Gibbs welcomed the proposal seeing it as economic diversification beneficial to St. Martin. Representatives from LIAT and Winair were also present for the press conference along with media from Guadeloupe.
Gibbs said the centre would be located on land close to Grand Case Airport and include a hotel. He reminded that the runway extension negotiation has finally been settled and the airport is free to continue its development plans.
“This project responds to the needs of the region,” he said. “For my part I want to offer Air Antilles the best conditions to execute this ambitious project here in St. Martin. St. Martin offers lots of advantages, our geographical positioning as a hub, command of languages and much more.
“In terms of the market, the training of pilots and crews has become a major economic development in the territories, but it does not always respond to the global increase in traffic, that’s why I said yes to this project.
“I think of the advantages this has for LIAT, Winair and other regional airlines, and even Central America where there are considerable needs for high-tech training. St. Martin will be at the crossroads between the Americas and the Caribbean; but I also want this project to be accessible to young St. Martiners. The territorial training plan will offer new professional perspectives for careers in the airline industry.”
Eric Koury, who stressed the project is a regional one in cooperation with other partners, pointed out that the training centre will be a year-round activity not subject to seasons. He added he hopes to solicit European funds for the estimated 15-million-euro cost of the project.
President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Winair Michael Cleaver commented: “We do support this regional project. We don’t fly this aircraft, but we would use the classroom facilities and computers. I think it’s a win-win situation. Winair has worked with Air Antilles for the past five years. We have a partnership and an alliance and want to expand it. We fully support their endeavour to open a training centre.
“I think it will be a huge asset to airlines in the region who have that aircraft and who send their pilots all around the world for training,” he added. “I send my pilots to Canada for simulator training twice a year because safety and security is everything. One of the key components is the pilot and how well trained he is.
“Instead of sending pilots all over the place for training they can do it right here in St. Martin and receive the same quality of training. Not only that, it will bring employment to St. Martin and inject a lot of money into the economy because these pilots are staying in hotels, renting cars and eating out.”