The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

Wings Alliance

Wings Alliance

Executive summary 

A number of the leading British ATOs are involved in a new venture aiming to offer candidates a connected modular route through to airline employment. The venture called ‘The Wings Alliance’ is a not-for-profit trade association whose aim is to offer prospective pilots a connected modular route through to airline employment following the principles of honesty, value and quality. The Wings Alliance will launch to the public on 7 November 2015 at the Pilot Careers Live, Heathrow and has already attracted considerable support in the industry.  


Background - Modular and Integrated training 

There are two basic training routes for professional pilots. The first is to attend an ‘integrated’ course where all the training is completed under the aegis of a single school, the second is to attend a series of ‘modular’ courses at specialist flight schools. Each route has its advantages and disadvantages and different licensing criteria apply to the two routes in terms of specific training elements required and flying hours achieved. Although the routes are different the end license is exactly the same.


Advantages and disadvantages  

For the pilot customers 

The advantages of modular training in general are: 

  • Reduced cost, and therefore less burden of debt
  • Flexibility in training choices 
  • Staged payments throughout the training sequence 
  • A choice of high quality flight schools 
  • The ability to work whilst qualifying 

The disadvantages are  

  • The perceived lack of employment opportunities 
  • The difficulties of making correct choices of flight school – avoiding the bandits 
  • The potential lack of complete training records to offer prospective employers 

For the same customers the advantages of integrated training are: 

  • The perceived better employment opportunities 
  • Everything is done with one company, only one choice is required 

The disadvantages are: 

  • The cost of integrated training is substantially higher than modular training 
  • The level of debt carried forward into employment and the repayments required are significant
  • Integrated courses are often associated with zero hours airline contracts 


For airlines

Hiring newly licensed pilots the advantages of taking integrated candidates are: 

  • They offer a homogenous but clearly very reasonable set of flying skills and have passed a selection process and a decent MCC/JOC to offer the airline minimal risk on employment. 
  • They are available in large numbers from a single source 

The disadvantages of hiring integrated students (with quite a bit of generalisation) are that they often: 

  • have little handling experience, restricted to a few aircraft types 
  • have less motivation, having made a relatively uninformed career choice.
  • Many have not actually flown before starting their courses and few directly fund their training.
  • have high expectations of airline life which are not realised in employment 
  • have limited life skills, having come from school or university to this, their first employment
  • They are predisposed to move on to legacy carriers at the first opportunity 


The advantages of hiring modular candidates are often the opposite of the disadvantages attributed to integrated candidates above (with more generalisation) in that: 

  • They will have more flying experience at licence issue 
    • They generally have better life skills, having had other jobs before coming to flying 
    • They are better motivated, because they have had to make their own decisions, and have often struggled financially to get their licenses 
  • They have more realistic expectations of airline life 


The disadvantages of hiring modular candidates are that; 

  • They are not available in any number from a single source 
  • They are less homogenous and the quality is more varied 
  • They usually don’t get a decent JOC course,  
  • They are not assessed pre-interview and it is difficult for a recruiting airline to completely avoid hiring a dud. 


The Wings Alliance 

The new venture is a trade association of most of the significant modular schools in the UK (and some of the leading flight schools in Europe) called the Wings Alliance.  

The Wings Alliance is a not-for-profit UK company limited by guarantee, which will ultimately be owned by its members. Its aims are to address the disadvantages of the general modular route listed above to offer to prospective pilots a quality assured route to airline employment, to provide airlines with a similarly quality assured pool of modular pilots and to address the marketing imbalance between specialist modular schools and the big integrated offerings, chief of which is from CTC. Its operation will be founded in the principles of honesty, quality and value. 


The Training Plan 

Prospective pilots will be encouraged to at least take a trial lesson (or more if possible) before committing to professional training.  

Pre-course independent aptitude testing will be done at RAF Cranwell through The Honourable Company of Air Pilots (formerly GAPAN). 

Wings Alliance will offer a mentored programme to prospective pilots through structured modular flight training at the member flight schools, recommending flight schools to suit the candidate’s individual requirements. Throughout the training Wings Alliance will collate training records and liaise with the member flight schools and the customers to ensure the quality of training and customer service is maintained. 

Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) is a separate and currently optional module which follows the EASA NPA 2015-13 recommendations and includes tailwheel experience, unusual attitude recognition and recovery (including spin recovery) and the supporting theory.  

After license issue the training will culminate in an (optional) assessed MCC/JOC preceded by selection to assess employment suitability and non-technical training in airline operations. Wings Alliance uses Cardiff Aviation’s 747-400 sim for the flying element and we operate a 40 hour pass/fail course. This course goes beyond the requirements of EASA approval so that those that pass the course will be properly assessed and prepared for their first type rating. Those that do not pass will not be endorsed, but will still have their training records available and may elect to complete just the minimum MCC course. 


Commercial structure 

The Wings Alliance is a co-operative trade association, as a company limited by guarantee it has no shareholders, only members, which are effectively its owners.  

The Chairman of the Wings Alliance is Alex Whittingham, an ex-RAF L1011 captain, and Managing Director and Head of Training of Bristol Groundschool. 

The CEO is Rod Wren, also an ex-RAF pilot and an A2 QFI and who has, in his time, been Head of Training both at Oxford and CTC, and Managing Director of the CTC Wings project.  


The companies which are members of the Wings Alliance at launch will be: 


In the UK 




Tayside Aviation 

Airways Flight Training, Exeter 

Stapleford Flight Centre 

Bristol Groundschool 

Ultimate High (for UPRT) 

Cardiff Aviation  


In Europe/Near East 

Egnatia Aviation, Greece 

Ayla Aviation, Jordan 

Orbit Groundschool, Holland 

HubAir, France 

Bartolini, Poland 


8 of the Wings Alliance members at launch offer PPL training, 8 offer commercial groundschool, and 9 offer commercial flying courses.  



Commercial Operation 

The Wings Alliance is funded by its members and by some elements of its commercial activity. The company will charge no premium for its services to prospective pilots, and pilots in training will transact directly with the member flight schools at their normal list prices, not with the Wings Alliance, with the exception of the MCC/JOC course, below.  

The only course(s) or services directly charged for by the Alliance will be for the (optional) employment selection and MCC/JOC after license issue. This will be a premium product in the sense that it exceeds EASA requirements and includes additional training and testing for employment suitability but will be priced competitively in line with the Alliance principles. Advice and guidance to prospective pilots training with the Wings Alliance and the maintenance and tracking of training records will be provided without charge. 


Industry Support 

As a co-operative trade association the Wings Alliance is committed to equal opportunity and to promoting the profession in an honest and balanced way. The Alliance considers it is essential to work with pilots’ unions and other associations to ensure the free flow of information and benefits. Its members already offer support or scholarships either in their own right, through charities or through the Air League and it is anticipated that this will continue under the Wings Alliance banner. In a similar vein the Wings Alliance will promote scholarships from the Air League and others without charge. 

BALPA have given us a statement supporting the initiative. The Honourable Company of Air Pilots has agreed to provide independent aptitude testing. Indications of support have been received from the British Women Pilots Association and it is hoped that this will be formally confirmed before launch.  


Airline Partners 

At the time of writing Loganair has agreed to take Wings Alliance endorsed candidates for interview as have Cardiff Aviation for their B737 operation and discussions are in progress with several other potential employers.  


Launch Schedule 

Wings Alliance launches to the public on November 7th 2015 at Pilot Careers Live, Heathrow.