The school will start operating this week at the Aviator College, Flight Academy & Flight Training School in Fort Pierce, Florida.
The new operations are a change from how El Al typically draws upon its pilots. Today, around 10% of El Al’s pilots, those who did not serve in the IAF, undergo private training at their own expense.
El Al is heading overseas in a bid to recruit more potential candidates.
“Like everyone, we’re suffering from a lack of personnel,” El Al executive Oranit Beit Halahmy Amir told the trade publication Aviation Week. A slew of early retirements, along with negotiations for fewer working hours, have left El Al short-staffed.
The move also puts Israel’s national carrier in line with American and international competitors that offer standardized training for pilots.
“We are inviting young people to choose the aviation world as a career, to study in an interesting, experiential and challenging field with a career horizon,” said Nimrod Borovich, head of business development and strategy at El Al. “We’ve created a unique course of study using all the EL AL’s built-in advantages in building a career path as commercial pilots.”
The academy offers two-year-long courses, during which time trainees can accumulate 1,000-hours of flight experience. The program will be open to candidates with no prior experience.
That said, the company does not guarantee trainees that participating in an El Al flight school in the US will land them a job. However, it does improve the chances of those without an IAF background.
Candidates to pilot the El Al fleet will still have to be Israeli citizens for security reasons.
The airline has faced financial difficulty recently, with a plummeting stock price that lost more than half its value in the past year.
In January, the company replaced its longtime CEO, David Maimon, with Gonen Usishkin.
El Al has also been steadily losing market share at its main hub, Ben-Gurion Airport. That is partly due to deregulation and the “Open Skies” agreement, which opened up greater competition from European and international carriers.
According to data from the Israel Airports Authority, El Al carried around a quarter of all passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport thus far during the spring of 2018. Given that the company did not achieve 30% market share in 2017 – for the first time in recent history – that could jeopardize the reduced fees and benefits it gets from the IAA.
It is unclear how the CEO Usishkin will revive El Al’s flagging prospects, along with nudging it towards a “transfer hub” model. Many airlines now offer transit services, where passengers fly non-direct through a hub. That has proven to be a major money- maker.
But for security and logistical complications, El Al hasn’t turned Ben-Gurion into a transfer venue, and today only a few thousand passengers annually transfer through the airport.
Since El Al began operating in 1948, the airline has grown to serve more than 50 destinations around the world. The company has a market value of NIS 430 million ($118 million).