Flight Plan

Helping aviation personnel learn the ropes and build skills

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on October 16, 2018

A firefighting demonstration in progress   -  The Hindu

In 2006 Kiran Grandhi, then Managing Director, GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited, overseeing the opening of the new greenfield airport in Hyderabad, was a worried man.

The airport was being built from scratch and there was a desperate need for 500 to 600 trained people to look after its various operations.

PS Nair, then Chief Executive Officer, Hyderabad airport, suggested that the company create its own talent pool. Nair, who had worked for over two decades with airports under AAI across the country before taking early retirement and joining the GMR group, was not only thinking of the new greenfield airport in Hyderabad but also the upcoming Delhi airport modernisation project that GMR had bagged. And that is how the GMR Aviation Academy (AA), the training arm of the GMR group, was born in 2009-10 in Hyderabad with a satellite campus in Delhi airport’s Terminal 2. The GMR group currently run airports in Hyderabad and Delhi and is also involved in Cebu airport in Philippines.

Today, among others, the GMR AA is a Directorate General of Civil Aviation approved training organisation for conducting courses in all categories of DGR training, an IATA accredited training school (ATS) and an IATA authorised training centre.

Among the various courses taught are short term ones like Aviation Security Training (the Academy is a BCAS-accredited security training institute) and the six-month firefighters training course held at a 100-acre campus in Anantpur near Bengaluru. “It is disciplined uniformed police training and post training they are deployed at our airports,” adds Nair.

“We started creating a talent pipeline for critical areas like firefighting. Operating an airport is condition precedent for which you must have minimum number of certified and trained firefighters. We stared the basic six-month FireFighters Course on campus,” Nair says.

GMR AA will also soon become the first and only one in India offering cabin crew courses, which have been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Last year, 33,000 people passed through the Academy although a large chunk of those who passed had to undergo a one-day compulsory training in Airport Security. The Academy employs 14 people on a regular basis with subject matter experts available on a call basis.

Reaching this stage, however, took a while. For Hyderabad airport, Nair and his team selected about 550 people from diverse sectors including manufacturing, the service industry, hospitality, airlines and IT.

Those selected were sent to Malaysia where Malaysia Airport Behard trained them in manning the various aspects of airport operations. Berhard was GMR group’s partner in the bid for the Hyderabad airport project.

The training in Malaysia varied from 10-15 days for those selected for airport operations, to six months for those chosen to take up a firefighter’s job. Those selected to do the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) course spent two years in Malaysia picking up their skills.

Those who had a flair for teaching were identified as SME or Subject Matter Experts and given training of trainers, and they became trainers certified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Once it had established itself, the Academy had to face some unpredicted challenges as well. Oman airport’s firefighters chose GMR AA for training its staff. Oman airport, which handles about the same number of passengers as Hyderabad, insisted that their firefighters be trained on the Airbus A380 aircraft, the world’s largest passenger jet.

This was a challenge for Hyderabad airport as it does not receive the A380. But a quick solution emerged as Delhi airport receives the A380 and the airport authorities sought special permission from the airline operating the aircraft to take the Oman firefighters on board the aircraft during the one-hour that the aircraft was on the ground.

Some other changes have also been made over the years. For example, this year, the Academy has started certified Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) for MRO and line maintenance because DGCA has made it mandatory that one should have an MRO for AME training.

Published on October 16, 2018

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