Thank you, Madam Chair and members.
First of all, let me introduce myself. I've been in the business for 46 years. I've been very fortunate to stay in that business for 46 years. I have close to 20 years of experience with Transport Canada as an inspector as well as a senior manager, both at headquarters and regionally. I spent 12 years at the Moncton Flight College as the CEO and principal. I currently am working with EVAS and GFT on special projects, and am contracted with them to do their safety management program and to assist in their quality assurance program, for both the flying school and the airline.
EVAS welcomes this opportunity to present recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The recommendations presented here will fall into three broad categories: support to student pilots, support to flight schools and immigration issues.
By way of a little history of EVAS, the company was started by Patrick and Florence White as a small flying school, with one aircraft. The company currently employs approximately 100 employees, operates 22 aircraft, and is made up of Exploits Valley Air Services, which is the airline component, and Gander Flight Training, which is the flying school. The company is headquartered in Gander, Newfoundland.
EVAS is part of the Air Canada family as a member of the Air Canada regional express that handles the Atlantic region. EVAS also operates charter, cargo and air ambulance operations.
Gander Flight Training currently has over 80 full-time students enrolled, both domestic and international. Dealing with the international market, the school has an ongoing training contract with Rangsit University of Bangkok, Thailand, to train students for the Thai aviation industry.
Historically, the timeline required to work at a tier 2 or tier 1 airline was eight to 10 years of experience before they even looked at you. In today's world, this can be as little as one to three years. There's a very rapid acceleration in how we get people moving into airline seats.
In today's world, we see pilots going from direct entry to first officer to captain in less than three years in tier 3 operations. When this scenario is added to the fact that new pilots are moving on to larger airlines at a very aggressive rate, it causes the entry-level operators to be stuck in a new-hire training cycle that is time-intensive and very expensive.
For example, EVAS has approximately 67 pilots on strength. In 2018 we hired 34 new pilots to replace departures. This gives us an attrition rate of over 50% annually. The impact of this is the requirement for multiple senior staff members to be involved in training programs at a higher rate than you would expect. From a financial aspect, the training cost for each new pilot is approximately $20,000.
The main issue within the flying school is keeping a working cadre of senior instructors as well as training enough new commercial pilots to start working as junior instructors. Once again, the school suffers from a high attrition rate of instructors. A new instructor starts off as a class 4 instructor, which requires increased supervision by a senior class 2 or class 1 instructor until they upgrade to a class 3. This normally takes six to eight months. It should also be noted that the school cannot operate without at least one class 1 or class 2 instructor.
What is effectively happening is that the rapid hiring at the airlines is causing extreme stress for the flying schools to maintain their senior people. A chief flight instructor and a class 1 instructor are needed to train new instructors. The main issue here is that new instructors are not staying in the instructing world long enough to achieve the experience required to become a class 1 or class 2.
A secondary issue that will be rearing its ugly head here in the near future, I'm sure, is the shortage of pilot examiners. To become a pilot examiner for private or commercial licences, they need to hold a class 1 or class 2 flight instructor rating for the appropriate category of aircraft and at least 1,000 hours of flight instructing experience. Achieving this in today's environment is very difficult.
However, this is compounded by the fact that Transport Canada is taking excessively long time frames to train and certify new pilot examiners. From our experience, the actual training process, which takes approximately two to three days of focused activities to complete, has taken as much as six to 12 months. Over the last decade, Transport Canada's level of service has become a serious issue for operators. Whether it's licensing of pilots, approval of operational manuals or amendments, or specialty activities such as pilot examiner training, the current time taken is way outside the norm. It recently took over one year to get a flight training manual approved.
Let's talk a bit about student financial support. As you are probably aware, the cost of becoming a commercial pilot today is approximately $60,000 to $80,000. The student loan system is based on a four-year university model. The loan amounts are based on weeks of training versus tuition costs.
What this means is that the average student might get $20,000 instead of $80,000 to help with his or her tuition.
I have a couple of recommendations. I'll skip ahead a little bit here because I'm running out of time.