Although there are already training academies within Saudi Arabia, the new Damman base has promised to train both men and women pilots on the same curriculum.
It was only in September last year that it was announced that women could now drive in the kingdom.
The new centre will be funded by SNCA, with CAE providing all the training elements under its Oxford Aviation Academy. It will be located at King Fahad International Airport on a dedicated 40,000sqm site.
“Developing the pilots of tomorrow is our priority and, as the leading worldwide training organisation, CAE is the most suitable partner to help us with the launch of this project and to accompany us on this journey,” said SNCA president and chief executive, Othman Al Moutairi.
“This centre gives us the ability to supply locally trained pilots to our growing regional and global airlines, while also providing a highly skilled career opportunity for students.”
Nick Leontidis, CAE Group president of civil aviation training, said: “We are honoured to support our partners in the aviation industry to establish new training centres. This new centre is testament to our commitment to shaping the future of pilot training.”
The announcement follows a decision by Saudi Arabian Airlines, the kingdom’s national carrier, to consider sending qualified women on scholarships to study to become pilots abroad.
Dubai newspaper, Gulf News, reported an airline source saying that the move “would help shatter taboos that stood for decades”, relating it to the decision of Saudi women gaining the right to drive in the kingdom.
No law existed preventing women from becoming pilots. However, social and cultural taboos, as well as meagre job prospects, held them back from embracing a career in aviation. Nonetheless several succeeded where others feared to tread.
Hanadi Al-Hindi received her pilot’s license in 2006, after completing her training in Jordan. However, she wasn’t able to find work or fly within in the kingdom until 2014, when she was hired by Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company. “That was really difficult, being a pilot who cannot fly in her own country,” Hindi told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in an interview.
According to Al Moutairi: “Men and women will be taught the same curriculum in the academy and we do have future plans to have female instructors and aviation trainers.
“The academy is a private entity but there are numerous financial aids. We have a number of partnering banks and companies who are willing to give interest-free loans,”.
“The academy completely adheres the standards of the General Authority for Civil Aviation. Only 40% of pilots in the Saudi job market are Saudis and only two of them are women. We aspire to have 60,000 pilots and technicians over the next 20 years.”