Turkish company filling growing aviation-training need in Kazakhstan06 march 2015, 16:27
When Turkish pilot Gurcan Malli began making charter flights to Kazakhstan in 2009, he noticed a country whose economy and airline industry were in a steady climb.
Sensing opportunity, he talked his partners in Istanbul-based Swan Aviation into setting up a Kazakhstan operation. The aviation-training company did so in 2012, said Gurcan, who heads the domestic operation from his office in Almaty.
He’s experienced in both the air and ground sides of aviation. He was a Turkish Air Force officer before joining the country’s civilian aviation industry.
Not only is Swan’s training helping Kazakhstan airlines, business-aircraft operations and airports comply with international standards, the company is partnering with Kazakh British Technical University on a new degree to produce home-grown aviation-industry experts. The master’s in business administration will be in aviation and airport management.
“Kazakhstan is in great need of developing its own aviation human resources,” Gurcan told me in an interview. “The new program at KBTU will go a long way toward meeting that need.”
Swan Air and Air Astana staff break for a photo during a recent accident-investigation training session. Photo courtesy of Gurcan Malli.
In addition to serving the aviation industry, Swan is developing a client base in Kazakhstan that it never expected: the oil and gas industry. Petroleum companies are interested in Swan’s training to make their safety record as good as the aviation industry’s, which is the world’s best.
Swan’s timing for setting up shop in Kazakhstan couldn’t have been better. The International Air Transport Association forecast in 2012 that Kazakhstan’s growth in domestic passenger traffic would be the highest in the world – 22 1/2 percent a year through 2016.
Figures between 2010 and 2013 for domestic- and international-flight passengers taking off or landing in Kazakhstan bore out IATA’s optimism. The number jumped an astounding 57 percent from 3,098,327 passengers in 2010 to 4,850,964 in 2013.
The national carrier Air Astana has increased its fleet by 50 percent since 2008 to keep up with demand – from 20 planes to 30. It plans to have 36 planes by 2019.
The spurt in passenger traffic and airport use left Kazakhstan aviation and airport-operations companies scrambling for managers who knew how to make air and grounds operations comply with strict global standards.
Questions about Kazakhstan’s ability to comply prompted the European Union at one point to prohibit all of the country’s carriers except Air Astana from flying in and out of EU countries.
Kazakhstan’s need for standards-compliance expertise is one of Swan’s biggest business opportunities.
The company’s training center, which is accredited by the International Air Transport Association, offers training in four areas: aviation-operations quality, management, safety and security. The training applies to airlines, business-aircraft operations and airport operations, Gurcan said.
Gurcan Malli is running Swan Aviation’s aviation and airport training operation in Kazakhstan. Photo courtesy of Gurcan Malli.
Swan does not offer flight training. Kazakhstan could use that training, too. It produces too few pilots, meaning that its carriers have to hire many from overseas.
Swan does train pilots in the latest in international aviation procedures and regulations, however.
Kazakhstan also needs more home-grown aviation-maintenance engineers and air traffic controllers, Gurcan said.
In addition to broad-based training such as airport operations, Swan offers specialized training and consulting.
A few of its specialized offerings are how to choose new aircraft for your operation, aviation-operations financial management, the human element in aircraft maintenance, aircraft fuel-tank safety, how to ensure a plane is airworthy, and aircraft-accident and –incident investigation.
Not surprisingly, Swan’s biggest client is Air Astana, Kazakhstan’s largest carrier. But its list of clients and partners includes 20 names.
Four are the international airports in Almaty, Astana, Karaganda and Aktau. Others range from the Discovery Flight School and Grata law firm, both in Almaty, to Aero Parts India.
Swan conducts the training at its offices at the Nurly Tau Business Center on Furmanova and Al Farabi in downtown Almaty and at locations of its clients’ choosing, including airports.
At the moment Swan’s domestic staff consists of seven full-timers plus a lot of specialized trainers on contract.
“Safety and accident-investigation training is the most popular,” Gurcan said.
Swan’s safety training includes helping Kazakhstan operations obtain certification from one of the world’s top safety-oversight organizations, Britain’s National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health.
The training also involves helping domestic operations obtain certification in air-crew safety from the European Aviation Safety Agency, certification in safety-management systems and certification in safety assessment of foreign aircraft.
Another area besides aviation safety that Swan is offering is airport-management training.
“Airports are big operations with lots of stakeholders,” which makes managing them complex and challenging, Gurcan said.
An assessment of the quality of an airport operation “begins with infrastructure and location of different services,” he said. “We also look at safety systems, security systems and customer satisfaction.”
Running airports has become more challenging in Kazakhstan in recent years because visitor traffic at many of them has outstripped the capacity they were designed for.
The prime example is Almaty International. “It needs to be renovated and larger,” Gurcan said.
Industry leaders, such as Air Astana CEO Peter Foster, have called on Kazakhstan’s airport planning and regulatory agency to increase capacity at a number of airports to keep up with soaring passenger traffic.
Swan’s partnership with KBTU will help Kazakhstan produce its first domestic crop of aviation-operation and airport managers.
The university will begin offering its MBA in aviation management this September. Students will be able to specialize in the flying side of aviation or the airport side.
Before coming to Kazakhstan, Gurcan Malli flew Swan Aviation charter aircraft from Turkey to countries in the former Soviet Union. He is actually in the cockpit of this Hawker 4000. Photo courtesy of Swan Aviation.
It will be a two-year program, with KBTU professors teaching general-management courses and accredited instructors connected with Swan teaching specialty courses.
“In order for Kazakhstan to improve its aviation industry, it must produce its own professionals, including managers,” Gurcan said. “The KBTU MBA will do that.”
Gurcan said he was surprised when the oil and gas industry came to him about training.
The approach came from the Singapore-based Oil and Gas Safety Council.
The petroleum industry worldwide wants to improve its safety record, council members told him – and it knows that the aviation industry’s record is the best of any industry.
In fact, the aviation industry’s safety record is only 1 problem out of 1 million flights and other transactions, Gurcan said.
The global occupational health and safety industry has also expressed interest in adopting aviation-industry safety approaches, he added.
With potential customers in the petroleum and occupational-health-and-safety industries, as well as a growing aviation-industry client base, Swan feels like it’s catching a wave in Kazakhstan.
If airline-passenger and airport-expansion projections prove accurate, it could be a big wave indeed.