Finding the best path for new pilots
Published: 22 Jan 2016
After spotting that opportunities were becoming restricted for trainees following a modular route, Isobel Hall established Kura Aviation to give aspiring applicants a more cost-effective route into the airline industry.
Tell us about your career so far.
I have worked in pilot training for the past 18 years; first for FlightSafety and then Oxford Aviation Academy (OAA), culminating in my role as ‘global lead – selection and customer services’ when CAE acquired OAA in 2012. During that time I spent three months running the Gondia training school in India, which was one of the best experiences of my life. I left OAA and worked as a consultant before setting up Kura in 2013. I have been very lucky; I’ve worked with modular and integrated self-sponsored cadets; airline cadets and international airlines and have been involved in setting up programmes such as the EasyJet multicrew pilot licence, British Airways future pilot programme and, most recently through Kura, the new first officer modular pathway with BA CityFlyer. It can be a changeable industry and I have experienced the highs and lows of all of it, shoulder to shoulder with students, colleagues and pilots. Would I work in any other industry? Absolutely not.
Why did you launch Kura?
I have worked with hundreds of fantastic pilots who have trained through both the integrated and modular training routes. I saw that there were fewer airline opportunities for modular trained pilots, while emphasis was growing on integrated career programmes offering professional development training and employment support. I didn’t believe this was good for individuals – or the industry – so I set up Kura to create new training and employment opportunities as a way for aspiring pilots to access the profession by the most costeffective route possible in the knowledge that there was no compromise in training quality or employment opportunities. And, at the same time, I was giving airlines the same risk reduction strategies through our type rating performance guarantee. I’m really pleased that we have achieved all of this.
“It is nothing short of a privilege to work with people so motivated”
What are the challenges facing the pilot training industry?
The biggest challenge for aspiring pilots is the huge cost barrier; it is a huge risk to invest in training when there is no guaranteed airline job. For training organisations, the biggest challenge is to deliver training that creates outstanding first officer candidates who have the breadth and depth of knowledge, skills and attitude airlines require of flight crew.
Pilot training is a competitive business. How do you stay ahead of the game?
I believe Kura is unique: we are creating new airline employment opportunities; we have our own rigorous selection process, not based on first series passes or ATPL exam results, but airline potential; we provide constructive feedback regardless of whether or not applicants enter our training programme; we support modular and integrated students wherever they trained; and, finally, I am very proud of the fact we are now the first Community Interest Company (CIC) in the sector. Being a CIC means our profits must be reinvested back into the pilot community and will be in the form of funding and sponsorship opportunities. We are independent and that is also very important.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I have met the best people of my life working in aviation and I love the customers. It is nothing short of a privilege to work with people so motivated and so passionate – the risks and hard work they are prepared to undertake in order to achieve their dreams is unbelievable. The joy of seeing them get their first airline job is nothing short of amazing.
Keeping up with technology! But in terms of the industry, when there’s a downturn it’s really tough for pilots and those training. Fortunately it’s a good time for aspiring pilots at the moment.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Still forging ahead with delivering industry-leading training and with Kura, generating lots of opportunities to help natural-born pilots into the profession.