NZALPA is renewing its call for the Government to ease the throttle on student loan assistance for trainee pilots.
Currently only 450 full time student loans are available for aviation students each year, with each loan limited to around $40,000. The average trainee pilot needs 2.4 loans to complete their training to commercial pilot licence/multi-engine rating level.
NZALPA is concerned that the high cost of getting qualified and the limited availability of student loans shuts out many potential pilots. NZALPA President Tim Robinson and General Manager Dawn Handforth wrote to the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, in October, asking to meet and discuss the effect the present student loan policy is having on the aviation sector. The letter proposed that the number of loans be increased to 600 and the amount available for each loan be increased.
Minister Hipkins replied saying he had no plans to review the current policy and that “the Government remains concerned that aviation students and graduates tend to have very large student loans they are slow to repay.”
“The loan repayment information the Minister is relying on is six-years old and quite outdated,” says Robinson. “The Ministry of Education is preparing updated figures and those should be available soon. We believe those figures will show a very different picture and will help us to persuade the Government to review its position.
“New Zealand trained pilots are sorely needed and there’s no shortage of very capable young people who are desperately keen to step up to the challenge of flying training – they just need a level playing field in terms of access to student loans,” says Robinson.
“We know there are no guarantees of a policy change but we need a commitment from Government to review the situation as soon as possible.”
Global aviation experts and economists often describe a looming ‘pilot crisis’, especially in the Asia Pacific region. Boeing has projected that aviation will need 790,000 new pilots by 2037 to meet growing demand (261,000 of those in the Asia Pacific region alone).
“We are staring down the runway at a pilot supply crisis and a relatively simple step by Government could do a great deal to address that,” says Robinson.
“The newly released Pilot Career Progression study also highlights the inadequacy of student loans for aviation training and the barrier this puts up for potential pilots. With the current strong demand for pilots we need to make sure the best candidates are able to put themselves forward for training without being knocked back for financial reasons.”
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