Cambodia plans to open a pilot training school next year in response to an acute shortage of pilots needed to facilitate growth in Cambodia’s aviation sector.
Khan Vanna, director-general for Technical Services and Operations at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), told The Post on December 28 that the SSCA had been working with a company to establish a pilot training school in Cambodia – with affordable tuition prices – as soon as possible to help Cambodian post-secondary students who wish to become pilots begin the necessary training.
According to statistics included in a presentation given by Vanna, Cambodia is lacking about 90 per cent of the human resources necessary to serve the civil aviation sector in the country.
Study abroad opportunities in this field have narrowed recently along with scholarship availability, due to the high costs associated with pilot training.
“The Cambodian economy today is a free market system, and Cambodian people who have a lot of resources and personal wealth should send their children to school at their own expense. But help will be available for poor students who would otherwise qualify for the programme.
“Cambodia is negotiating with the [pilot training] company to offer a discount which is lower than market price to Cambodian youths who wish to continue their studies in the aviation industry.
“After graduating, the SSCA will help them look for jobs and then help them to negotiate their contracts and salaries,” Vanna said.
He said those who graduated and became licensed pilots could expect to receive a salary in line with international standards for the profession, even if working from Cambodia.
That would mean, Vanna said, an average starting monthly salary of more than $3,000 that could rise to $5,000 after two years of service, with further increases possible depending on their specific employment situation.
Current planning has the school opening its doors in May 2021 with a comparatively low tuition cost of approximately $10,000. Pilot training undertaken abroad typically costs around $140,000 or more in total between tuition fees and living expenses, with the tuition alone often costing in excess of $80,000.
“Some Cambodians who have gone to the US for their pilot training [and to work] may eventually return here, and if they do they won’t be disappointed. We will help them to find a job in aviation here as we know there will be many opportunities due to growth. Currently, we have around 30 Cambodian pilots,” he said.
Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin welcomed the initiative to establish a pilot training school in Cambodia given the country’s expanding airport capacity and fast growing civil aviation sector.
She said that in the past, Cambodia lacked the resources to train people in this skill to a high enough standard but now, in partnership with a foreign company, it is achievable.
She pointed out that its presence here in Cambodia, combined with its low tuition costs, would greatly enrich human resources within the aviation sector and could be an important step in helping the industry here to mature fully.
“If we want to expand further, then this training programme puts some of the resources needed right in our hands.
“One must consider, though, that the aviation sector and tourism sector are linked together. When we have more expertise and more advanced capacities in human resources, it will build the confidence of tourists who won’t hesitate or worry any longer about coming to visit our country,” she said.
Seng Suyhak, a pilot candidate who is preparing to graduate from his training programme in the US, also acknowledged that Cambodia is currently suffering from a shortage of pilots and other professionals in the field of aviation.
He observed that this was perhaps due in part to some of Cambodia’s veteran pilots having retired in recent years without there being enough younger pilots or trainees to serve as replacements.
Suyhak also applauded the government’s plans to facilitate the opening of a pilot training school in Cambodia.
“It would make it far easier for Cambodians who want to follow this career to get started, especially with the lower costs,” he said.
Suyhak said a good site for the pilot training school in Cambodia could be Koh Kong province.
With his own training nearly complete, he plans to finish his studies and graduate from his programme in the US.
But after that, he says, he would love to be able to return to Cambodia and fly for one of the airlines serving the country that he will always consider his true home.