By Emmie V. Abadilla
Pilots earn the highest wage in this country, averaging P157,000 per month – higher once they become captain – from P280,000 to P350,000.
But first, they have to cough up over P5 million to train as one. Not to mention the academic and physical requirements they should hurdle.
The game rules out the faint at heart with pockets not deep enough.
No wonder, when Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) launched its “study-now, pay-later” Cadet Pilot Program, 12,562 applied. But only 16 passed.
The 16, mostly scholars, include two girls, a pair of twins, a soon-to-be-first-time father and a law student who abandoned his future in the courts for the cockpit.
This first batch of cadets will train for 52 weeks in one of the world’s best pilot schools in Adelaide, Australia, logging in 173 hours of flying, 60 hours in simulators plus 802 hours in ground theory.
And they hope all 16 will become licensed commercial pilots in the end.
Soon-to-be-father Kayrwin Kirch Remolona has to fly to Australia before his wife delivers their first-born son, so he cannot be there at her side. But he has set his sights on the long-term view.
A cum laude graduate of the Philippine State College of Aeronautics, Kayrwin has a degree in Aircraft Maintenance Technology and has worked in an aircraft company based in Clark. But he simply couldn’t afford the cost of the pilot training.
Now, the CEB program has opened a door of opportunity and “a great future” for his family.
Dexie Jay Aljas, an Electronics Engineer and a dean’s lister at the Cebu Institute of Technology, was the youngest of a brood of five. However, self-financing to be a pilot was “never an option.”
His middle-class family got by, thanks to his working siblings and plenty of help from relatives. He has a doctor sister, another is a chemical engineer, the other is a bank manager. But he can’t bring himself to ask them to fork over US$100,000 for his dream.
Hence, he kept his ambition a secret to everyone but his college buddy and his sweetheart, until he made it to the CEB Program. “My family was shocked when I told them I passed.”
So far, only two girls made it to CEB’s first batch of cadet pilots – Janine Alyssa Marie Bautista, a graduate of Aeronautical Engineering from the Philippine State College of Aeronautics and Martha May De Leon, who graduated with honors from PATTS College of Aeronautics
“I wanted to be a pilot since grade school,” revealed Martha, although people kept telling her it’s a “for the boys” kind of career. “I want to prove I can a do a man’s job, too.” Besides, “Flying is not just about pushing buttons. You need technical expertise.”
She took up aeronautical engineering because it was the closest she could get to becoming a pilot. Even after graduating from college and getting her first job, she found “I couldn’t continue pursuing my dream of flying because of monetary problems.”
Interestingly, CEB’s first batch of cadet pilots also included twins, Ivan Kevin and Ian John Satentes, who can only be told apart because of their sideburns.
Both are scholars and cum laude graduates of the Aircraft Maintenance Technology from PATTS. Both have been dreamed of becoming pilots since they were kids when they would gaze at big planes while escorting their seaman dad in and out of airports.
Another cadet pilot, Juan Carlo Wage worked his way through a Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree at UP Clark. Being the son of house helpers in Pampanga, “I want to pay back my parents for their hard work, give them a good life,” he stressed.
And there’s Jose Angelo Santos, 21, who abandoned his slot at the University of the Philippines College of Law after two semesters to pursue his dream in the cockpit.
Overall, Cebu Pacific will invest US$25 million for its Cadet Pilot Program in partnership with Australia’s Flight Training (AFT). The amount will fund 240 candidates over a five-year period, or 48 candidates per year divided into three batches, with each batch composed of 16 Cadet-Pilots.
The cost, at $100,000 per student, covers training, type-rating and licensing. CEB will hire successful cadet-pilots as first officers, flying both domestic and international routes and they will reimburse the cost of the CEB program via salary deduction over ten years at zero interest.
The program is open only to Filipino citizens who are college graduates, proficient in English and hold passports valid for at least two years prior to the start of the program.