• MFS will provide a Melbourne training base, with Flight Standards further preparing CPLs for the realities of the general aviation industry. (composite image: Steve Hitchen)
    MFS will provide a Melbourne training base, with Flight Standards further preparing CPLs for the realities of the general aviation industry. (composite image: Steve Hitchen)

Two of Australia's premier flight training organisations have joined forces in a program designed to prepare young CPLs for a career in general aviation.

Moorabbin Flying Services (MFS) and Darwin-based Flight Standards will merge training operations to create a single pathway to a GA career; something both schools believe is missing in today's current training environment.

Flight Standards in particular has lamented for several years that academy-style schools based in the capital cities have proven adept at preparing new CPLs for airline careers, but graduates are not skilled in GA-style operations in very different aircraft on very different airstrips.

Flight Standards has run a GA Ready course out of Darwin for some years, which has been filling the skills gap, but also exposing the lack of good GA training offered by some southern academies. 

Correcting that is the main aim of the new training partnership, according to Flight Standards' Director Ben Mackney.

"The number of people who come through our doors up here for the GA Ready course or maybe for a twin upgrade, and prior to coming to the NT they'd only ever landed on sealed runways or possibly the occasional grass runway; they've never taken an aircraft away overnight because their flying school didn't want to risk it," he told Australian Flying.

"A couple of years ago we tried to articulate what FS was as an organisation. We narrowed it down to a few words, which was to help pilots achieve their potential by training them right. Our experience with MFS showed that they are of a similar mindset."

MFS brings a Part 142 approval, Registered Training Operator (RTO) and a VET at School program to the party, all of which are now in reach of Flight Standards due to the nature of the partnership. 

Flight Standards Director and Instructor Cameron Marchant will assume the role of Head of Operations at the Moorabbin base.

MFS Director Maddy Johnson will take on the role of Business Development Manager for MFS Flight Standards. She has experienced the same problems with academy training and is in lock-step with Mackney when it comes to solutions.

"MFS has a Part 142 approval and is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), and there's all sorts of goodness and magic within Flight Standards as well, and each company has a reputation for its own excellence," she said.

"Flight Standards was born out of some very good advanced training to get CPL students appropriately qualified to get into their first jobs, and it has grown from there.

"MFS has done a lot of VET in School programs and cadet programs, so we're bringing the best of both worlds and pushing it together.

"The aim is to do career pathways."

Mackney agrees: "Everything we've done on our journey has been with that in mind. We've acquired a couple of charter companies along the way [Kakadu Air and Mistar Air Charter]–although we never intended to have a charter presence per se–it made sense given the spaces we've been working in; things like the GA Ready course, it made sense to have an offering that put people into their first job.

"We'll never guarantee anyone a job because they still have to walk the walk themselves; which is consistent with our intent."

Mackney sees the partnership with MFS as a solution to get CPLs match-fit for operations in the more remote parts of Australia, which has proven to be outside the established comfort zone of many CPLs trained at academies.

"Working with MFS enables us to provide young pilots with an opportunity to get a start in the industry or explore the opportunities to see what might be there," he said. "It also enables us to put our products into the Victorian market as well.

"One of the big thing is the VET at School program. MFS has been working in that space for some time, and one of the big things is how people are going to pay for their training, and they very quickly run to the big institutions.

"That takes these kids away from where they should be learning and drops them into somewhere with an [inappropriate fleet], which does not necessarily prepare them for the GA market.

"If we can get to them at a young age, we can expose them to the truth of the GA industry before they get bombarded with glossy brochures."

At the moment, neither Johnson nor Mackney envisage many changes to the Moorabbin base, although Flight Standards is looking at placing a Baron there to complement the twin training done on MFS' Piper Seminole. Both see the current Piper Warrior and Archer fleet as appropriate to prepare CPLs for GA charter.

Johnson told Australian Flying that part of the new pathway was assessing the ability of each candidate to complete the course rather than just signing them up and taking the money.

"If you're coming in as a school-age student then you'd be under the MFS umbrella because of the VET at School program. With the pathway program that we're offering we will do Recognition of Prior Learning because we want the best people.

"It's all about standardising and doing an appropriate assessment rather than taking in just anyone because they have some funds.

"If it's an advanced student who has a CPL, it's a matter of standardising them and showing them the areas they may not be so great in because potentially their training has been so sanitised.

"We will need to make them fit for purpose so they can actually get jobs.

"The last thing we want to be is a sausage factory that just pushes students through as fast as they can."

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