Bhanu Choudhrie, founder of Alpha Aviation Group (AAG), recently inaugurated the opening of its new $11 million Simulator Training Center Expansion Project at the AAG Academy located in Pampanga province in the Philippines, which is just northwest of Manila, the capital. The project includes “a new Airbus A320 Version 2.0 Full Flight Simulator.”
At the launch event, in his opening remarks, Choudhrie stated, “We are incredibly proud to launch our sixth simulator, the most of any in the Philippines. The new facilities will become an invaluable asset for our current and future generations of students, enabling them to train to the highest standards.”
Cristopher Magdangal, AAG’s regional director for Asia-Pacific, pointed out that the new simulator facility would “help propel the Philippines into becoming the region’s premier aviation hub.”
According to Choudhrie, the Asia-Pacific (Apac) airline industry is “growing at a remarkable rate,” and it is “predicted to have 3.9 billion passengers by 2037.” Obviously, Choudhrie continued, this “greater demand means more planes, and more planes requires more commercial pilots—645,000 more worldwide by 2038, with a third of those required across Apac.”
Bhanu Choudhrie is the founder of C&C Alpha Group, a family-owned business, with his brother, Dhairya Choudhrie, who is the company’s executive director. Their father, Sudhir Choudhrie, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, is a consultant.
The aviation arm of C&C Alpha Group, AAG was created in 2006. By September 2019, 900 students from 40 countries had completed their studies at AAG. They now fly for regional airlines like Air Asia Philippines, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and VietJet.
Currently, more than 300 cadets are enrolled in the AAG training program. In step with Choudhrie’s commitment to gender equality, about 20 of the cadets are women. This is in an industry where only 3 percent of the world’s pilots are women.
AAG holds recruitment programs at universities where female pilots speak to other women about the benefits of a career as a pilot and encourage them to apply for the training at the AAG Academy Training Center. One thing that may draw women to the career is the rise of low-cost carriers that fly short-haul flights within the region. This may be ideal for a woman who does not want to be away from home for long periods of time.
Choudhrie’s mission is to dispel the idea that only men can apply to AAG’s airline pilot training program. He says, “There is a huge demand and men alone can’t fill that. It’s the women who will be the ones to drive this growth.” The current number of 20 women in training at the Academy is particularly significant because only 30 women graduated from the Academy in its first decade.
Choudhrie has a very strong role model for women in his own mother, Anita Choudhrie. He witnessed her strength as she stood by the side of her husband, Sudhir Choudhrie, during his heart transplant surgery in 1999. Sudhir, who is Bhanu’s father, is one of the world’s longest-living heart transplant patients and credits the emotional support of his wife and children with his strong recovery.
Bhanu Choudhrie is now a director of a charitable organization, the Path to Success, which was founded by his mother, Anita, in 2005. The charity aids children who are struggling with issues of abuse, disabilities, poverty, and access to education. This is only one of the philanthropic endeavors of Choudhrie, who was born in India, educated in the United States, and now spends much of his time in the United Kingdom.
In an interview, Choudhrie said that “it is Hindu philosophy that the more you give, the more you get.” He recalls being a child and visiting the blind and handicapped, and schools where children had no parents. This helped him conclude that “it is about taking care of other individuals and to cherish what you have you must take care of them.”
Choudhrie has also received commendations for his entrepreneurial spirit. In 2008, he was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by the United Kingdom’s Asian Voice Political and Public Life Awards.
AAG was one of his entrepreneurial projects, but it also fills a need. Part of its business model is to provide airlines with a trusted partner that specializes in the vital task of pilot training. In an interview posted to Medium.com, Choudhrie said that the company offers “an all-encompassing experience including end-to-end pilot training solutions where airlines can outsource the entirety of their training requirements.”
The Alpha Aviation Academy, a subsidiary of AAG, pioneered a unique model, the multi-crew pilot license (MPL) training programme, “that allows for pilots to be trained in a much shorter time, doing more hours on the simulator than actual flying hours, and that brings in the opportunity for airlines to plan ‘just in time’ as they need pilots.” The training program takes approximately 22 months to complete.
As for the importance of simulators, Airplane Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully) had some supportive words. Sully is known worldwide for his 2009 feat of landing an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River shortly after takeoff from La Guardia Airport in New York. The emergency landing was necessary after the plane’s engines hit a flock of geese.
All 155 people were rescued, and only five were injured. One National Safety Board official called it “the most successful ditching in aviation history.”
In his testimony before the United States Congress, Sully emphasized: “We should all want pilots to experience these challenging situations for the first time in a simulator, not in flight. Pilots must develop muscle memory to be able to quickly and effectively respond to a sudden emergency.”
This is exactly what pilots-in-training learn from working on a simulator at Bhanu Choudhrie’s Aviation Aviation Group. AAG is now known as one of the world’s leading training platforms. It brings in annual revenue of more than $20 million from clients like VietJet Air, Air Arabia, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airways and VietJet Air.
One commentator spoke about the success of The Aviation Academy, noting that it provides “everything from breaking in novice pilots to providing vital ongoing training to professionals.” According to Choudhrie, “We take pilots from zero to hero.”
Choudhrie continues, “The industry is growing, and airlines are starting up across Asia and the Far East. It’s one of the businesses that we are holding onto as we see so much growth.”
He attributes his success in bringing ideas to life to surrounding himself with a great team. He believes the “do-it-alone leader” people think of when they hear the word entrepreneur is a myth. He firmly believes that “surrounding yourself with a great team of people with specialized skills and unique perspectives is the only way to guarantee that great ideas will become living, breathing success stories. Otherwise, they’re just ideas and nothing more.”