THE economic benefits of the announcement of flights to the US are obvious already, with the news that the Norwegian airline recently recruited 24 cadet pilot graduates from Cork Airport-based Atlantic Flight Training Academy (AFTA).
The cadets will soon be flying for Norwegian Airlines on the new Irish-transatlantic routes, on the airline’s new Boeing 737 MAX planes.
AFTA has been training domestic and international cadets since 1995, with more recent contracts coming from Turkish Airlines, Air Astana, Kazakhstan and the Libyan Ministry of Transport.
Equipped with a modern training fleet of training aircraft, including next generation Cessna’s and Pipers, AFTA also boasts state-of-the-art B737 NG JET and Advanced FNPT II Twin engined flight simulators.
‘This is a momentous occasion for Cork and our cadet pilots,’ said Mark Casey, AFTA chief executive. ‘AFTA have a strong relationship with Norwegian airlines going back over a number of years, and recently 24 cadet pilot graduates were recruited by NAI from our Cork academy. It is an exciting time for staff and cadets at AFTA as many of these graduates will be flying Norwegian’s newest aircraft, the Boeing 737 MAX from Cork, Dublin and Shannon this summer. This is a fantastic time for ‘would-be’ cadets to train, the opportunities for graduates from the academy have never been better, and the global aviation industry continues to expand at an exponential rate.’
AFTA run three full-time pilot training courses each year, and have trained in excess of 1,800 pilot graduates for the airline industry for some of the world’s leading airlines, including Ryanair, Air Astana, Turkish Airlines, Easy Jet, Virgin Atlantic, Flybe, Jet2.com, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, and Qatar.
‘AFTA are currently conducting assessments for our next full time, fully integrated cadet pilot training course at Cork Airport commencing March 27th,’ said Mr Casey.
Historic news only 56 years in the making!
LAST week’s announcement was a major day in the history of Cork.
Although the nation might not have realised that, judging by the story’s relegation to the second half of the RTÉ Six One News.
Having first opened its doors on October 16th 1961, this July 1st will be the first time that a scheduled flight will depart from Cork Airport’s runway to cross the Atlantic.
At the opening of the airport in 1961, the then Minister for Transport, Erskine Childers, noted the ability of an airport to act as a catalyst for growth for its hinterland, said Cork Airport’s Kevin Cullinane last week.
And Mr Childers also said there was no better way to assist local farmers than by bringing tourists to consume their produce, added Mr Cullinane.
In the same way, our American tourists can now come to Cork and sample some of the finest food in Ireland, right here in Cork.
Of course, this is an area in which West Cork excels, as it is fast becoming the foodie capital of the island.
‘I better get smoking more salmon so,’ joked Cork Business Association chief and English Market fishmonger Pat O’Connell, when he heard the predicted passenger make-up of the Norwegian flights, from the airline’s CEO Bjorn Kjos at the launch.
Mr Kjos said he expected that most flights could have up to 80% of passengers being American tourists. ‘That is my gut feeling,’ he told Mr O’Connell.
‘This area is already very popular with tourists, especially those in the greater Boston area,’ added Mr Kjos, who had obviously done his research well.
‘There are a lot of people with Irish connections in that area, and I have no doubt these flights will act as a gateway to all of Ireland.’
Regarding a query on the lack of a passport pre-clearance facility in Cork, Mr Kjos said he didn’t believe this was an issue. ‘Most of the airports we fly to don’t have pre-clearance,’ he said. ‘But if you fly to smaller airports, then you have just five or ten minutes to wait at passport control. It’s totally different to JFK.’
Cork Airport managing director, Niall MacCarthy, added his agreement. ‘It’s not an issue in these airports,’ he said.