Chinese New Pilots & U.S. Trainer Planes
Piper Aircraft's Archer is commonly used to train new pilots.
U.S. aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft said it will sell over 150 trainer planes to Sichuan Fan-Mei Aviation Technologies Co., Ltd which runs a pilot training program at Chinese mainland.
Piper Aircraft, who makes small general aviation aircraft, based in Vero Beach Florida, will deliver 152 planes out in seven years in a deal the worth of which is $75 million. It includes the sale of 100 Archer TX single engine aircraft that is used to train new pilots.
For the current year, Piper said they plan to deliver 20 aircraft to Fan-Mei flight school in Sichuan province during the first delivery period in March. The deal was announced at the Singapore Air-show.
Piper President and CEO, Simon Caldecott, told CNBC that Asia has become a key market for his company because there is a growing demand for new pilots in that region.
"One of the things I've been looking at, and constantly monitoring, is the global shortage of new pilots," Caldecott said.
Indeed, in its 2017 pilot outlook, Boeing said that, by 2036, the Asia Pacific region will have a demand for 253,000 new pilots — about 40 percent of the global demand. Meanwhile, North America is predicted to need about 117,000 pilots and Europe about 106,000.
Overall, Boeing said, the aviation industry will need to supply more than 2 million new commercial airline pilots, maintenance technicians and cabin crew.
"So there's a big demand, just in Asia, for new pilots," Caldecott said. "In the past, historically, most of those (pilots) trained in either the U.S. or Australia, some in South Africa. But as countries like China develop, they want to train more of their own."
Don Li, president of Sichuan Fan-Mei Aviation Technologies Co., Ltd, told CNBC that the deal with Piper was the biggest ever in the company's history.
He added that there were plans to order between 40 and 60 additional Piper aircraft over the next two to three years for short-haul air shuttle and personal use — that estimate could also increase according to "how we cultivate the market," Li said.
The aircraft models that Li referred to — the Piper M-Class and Seneca — are awaiting certification of China at the moment. As the company is privately owned, Fan-Mei did not receive any government subsidies to make the purchase, Li said. Sichaun Fan-Mei Aviation Technologies is a subsidiary of Sichuan Fan-Mei Education Group which provides aviation education in China to about 40,000 students. That includes training for flight attendants, aviation mechanics, airport management and security.
On top of the five locations the firm has in China, there are plans to set up in other parts of the country, Li added. Previously, Fan-Mei bought training aircraft from companies like Robinson Helicopters and Bell Helicopter, while Piper is the only
He added the company was in talks with other companies to purchase different types of aircraft to continue investing in its pilot training efforts. "This is only the start. We want to become the full-spectrum service provider for the general aviation industry," he said.