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Novation Academy aims to turn Cambodia into flight training hub

Gareth Johnson

Phnom Penh based Novation Academy, who describe themselves as an “advanced aviation training facility” have recently launched with the aim of not juts training the next generation of Cambodian pilots, but also hopefully the regions. Cambodia Investment Review went to check on their kit and learn about their plans for expansion.

The company which currently has the most state of the art flight simulator in the country, boasts one of only two qualified commercial flight instructors within the country, and are also now purchasing their own aircraft.

Can you get pilots license in Phnom Penh?

Getting a pilot’s license in Phnom Penh is not all that hard, at least according to Kirill Bratchenko Managing-Director of Novation Academy, telling us: “It takes around 40 hours over 2-3 months and roughly $20,000 to obtain a private pilot’s license with us”.  With price and time-frame qualifying those that pass to fly small planes of a certain class, but not yet commercial jets.

“Part of qualifying for a private pilot’s license can be done on our simulator, while some needs to be done with actual aircraft. We are currently waiting for our first two seat Magnus Fusion 212 aircraft to be manufactured and delivered to Cambodia, which will be used for training,” Kirill added.

Read more: Cambodian Airlines in 2022

Novation Academy flight simulator.

A Magnus Fusion usually costs anywhere in the range of $200,000 to $300,000 and is so small that the plane, rather than passengers has a parachute, should things go wrong in the sky.

Kirill further explained other potential areas of growth within the private aviation arena such as creating a flying club (the first of its kind in the country), renting hangar space to store private planes, as well as even reselling to both groups and individuals wishing to own their own planes. So called shared, or crowd-funded planes are popular in many jurisdictions, but the concept as of yet has not reached the Kingdom.

Training the next generation of commercial pilots

Yet while the private license market was an innovation for Cambodia, the main aim and indeed potential for the company was in training pilots to fly commercially. Their angle to entry though being rather unique, with Chief Training Officer Captain Eugene Zakharankau explaining: “It takes 800 hours of theory and 200 hours of flight time over 14 months to 2 years to qualify for your commercial pilot’s license.”

With Novation Academy’s advantages being price, time and most importantly location. It turns out that multiple ASEAN countries offer commercial license programs, with them ranging from $80,000 in Vietnam and the Philippines to around $120,000 in Singapore, while taking on average two years to complete.

The main advantages for Cambodia though was in cost of living and time in the air with Kirill adding: “Cambodia is a cheap place to live that also offers easy visa requirements. What sets it apart from our point of view is also its open skies. Students in Vietnam for example need to complete their air time in the USA, but with us everything can be done in Cambodia”.

Read more: Yugo Cambodia’s ‘Uber of the skies’ takes off

Cambodia Investment Review reporter testing out Novation Academy flight simulator.

In essence Novation Academy are not just aiming for excellence in service and product, but also utilizing the cost and standard of living in Cambodia in order to attract regional students.

Students who put in the hours can potentially graduate in as little as 14 months, as opposed to 2 years, as well as being able to gain employment independently. This is as opposed to students that train with a specific airline, who are then required to complete a minimum number of hours before moving to another company.

The future of flight training hubs in Cambodia

Partnering with local airlines though was also something the company were considering with Kirill adding: “We would certainly consider partnering with local airlines, which could mean our pilots get preferential treatment when it comes to employment post-graduation”.

The timing for the school in also potentially key to its success with the world needing an additional 360,000 pilots owner the coming years as the world recovers from Covid, with 200,000 of them required to cover Asia alone. Currently most local airlines employ foreign pilots, simply because local ones barely exist.

Kirill Bratchenko Managing-Director of Novation Academy.

For this reason the Academy has also received government support, particularly from the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, with the company receiving tax-exempt status due to being an educational institution.

Support from other arms of government has also been forthcoming, with the prospect of more Khmer pilots fitting in very well with the nations aims of becoming a middle-income country by 2030.

So, whether you are an enthusiast who wishes to fly for fun, or someone looking for a career in the industry, there is now a local alternative to training abroad.

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