Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2020-11-09

At Horizon Flight Academy, Every Mission is a Success

As the region’s largest independent helicopter flight training academy, Horizon is instrumental in training pilots locally and internationally.
By Sakha Pramod
 
Hareb Thani Al Dhaheri, the Chief Executive Officer of Horizon Flight Academy spoke to Nation Shield on how the company is constantly employing new and innovative training technologies and associating with world-class partners to build pilot skills and enhance operational flexibility. Excerpts: 
 
Horizon Flight Academy was launched in 2003 and has gone a long way since then. Are you today the premier flight-training academy in the Middle East?
Yes, you are right. We launched the Horizon Flight Academy in 2004 and today we are indeed the premier flight academy in the Middle East. We offer standard and bespoke rotary-wing training to the trainees locally and regionally. Our courses include both military and commercial segments. 
 
Horizon signed a deal to buy 12 Bell 505 helicopters from U.S. manufacturer Bell Textron at Dubai Airshow. What made you pick Bell 505? Does it also equip the trainees to fly any type of helicopter?
The 505 is one of the most advanced short light single helicopter on the market today. We have had great experience with Bell products. We have been using Bell platforms since inception. Bell helicopters are equipped with modern equipment such as the glass cockpit and Garmin function which enhances safety. The Garmin G1000H NXi avionics and dual channel FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) provide enhanced situational awareness. We received all the ordered helicopters early this year. As a training aircraft, we find Bell 505’s capability, efficient operational cost, maintainability and safety features very attractive. We recently logged more than 1,000 hours on our Bell fleet in less than three months from latest aircraft registration.
 
Incidentally, Sheikh Zayed bin Hamad bin Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan was the first student to fly the Bell 505 for his Commercial Pilot License.
 
During the Airshow, Horizon displayed a training simulator. In what all courses do you use this simulator, and is it really a substitute for actual training in a single engine aircraft?
A simulator cannot replace real training experience, but it enables the pilots to try exercises that might be risky to do during practice or training on an actual aircraft. Simulator training enhances the skill of pilots, especially in emergency training that teaches students how to perform an emergency landing in different scenarios and different weather conditions whether day or night. In simulator learning, there is no risk to pilots while they learn to face situations like engine failure and rotor failure, while landing or flying an aircraft. 
 
Let me say that during the Instrument Rating (IR) modular flying training course we train pilots to operate helicopters under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). Here, we use simulators to train them and we get the best results. Simulator training reduces the cost to some extent though there is a difference between natural flying hours and simulators flying hours.
 
Can you tell us about the profile of your trainees, as there may be many from outside the UAE?
We do have trainees from other countries. We operate predominantly in the UAE, in military, paramilitary, and civil segments. But we also have students from many GCC countries and also international students who are in the military or police force.
 
Horizon meets the increasing demand in the region for pilots in both civilian and military sectors. Do you have more demand in the military segment compared to the civilian?
Yes, we definitely have a larger demand in the military segment. Majority of our student strength consists of military cadets. But lately, we have noticed an influx of female candidates breaking through this male dominated industry in the region and that trend is also beginning to trickle down to Horizon and that is a very exciting and welcoming change. 
 
What different training courses do you offer at present?
With state-of-the-art facilities and a multinational team of experienced instructors, our training programmes are delivered to the highest standards of safety, quality, and efficiency. Our training courses comply with European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) standards and have earned UAE General Civil Aviation Authority approval.
At Horizon, we have different courses catering to different needs and levels. Most customers ask for standard approved courses by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the UAE. Our military clients sometimes require custom designed courses.
 
We train our commercial pilots to operate single-engine or multi-engine helicopters. We do entry-level courses like CPL – commercial pilot license – that takes students from zero flying hours all the way to the GCAA CPL (H) licence. We also provide Qualified Military Pilot (QMP) course, Flight Instructor (FI) Helicopter course, Instrument Rating – IR (H) course, and Airline Transportation Pilot License (ATPL) course. We also have instrument rating, night rating, and the twin conversion and multi-pilot IR.

All these courses are GCAA registered and approved, and we offer bridge courses for our military clients. Working in close partnership with our clients, we deliver all the training programmes they require to build skills in key areas.
 
In addition, we offer a number of aviation training programmes covering subjects as diverse as flight safety, ground safety, aircraft accident investigation and management, aviation management, crew resource management, and management of flight safety and accident investigation. 
 
What are your expansion plans? 
We started our expansion plans three years ago. We introduced a new fleet, the Bell 505. We added two twin-engine helicopters for the advanced courses such as flying over water, over mountain and for search and rescue missions. In addition, we provide Night Vision Goggles (NVG) flying, which enables the pilot to fly at night. This allows students to complete single engine training and then without a break do advanced training on twin-engine helicopter. We have also expanded by adding  helipads to our tarmac to accommodate  18 helicopters at a time. 
 
Please brief us about the facilities you have at Horizon Academy.
 
At Horizon we have a 10,000 sq. metre training facility located in Al Ain. Our classrooms are equipped with latest multimedia as we are now fully depending on multimedia training. We have four hangers equipped within our facilities, which can hold all our aircrafts for maintenance work and parking. And we have around 18 helipads.
 
Does the location in the desert region offer any added advantage in training?
It is no more a desert. The desert is diminishing now and it is away from us. But the desert is a good training environment. It is sunny days here almost all year round and that is highly suitable for training. We do get some interruption due to weather but it is minimal. In the desert environment, there are special techniques for landing, and we train our pilots on these techniques and it is an advantage. There is nothing to stop us here, because our weather is always sunny. Thus, this is one of the best training locations. 
 
In addition, we do have our own training area where we depart from our facility, conduct the training and return. It is very close, some 10-15 minutes by helicopter. It is located in the middle of the desert where it is equipped with helipads for landing and other needs. 
 
What are Horizon’s future plans?
Based on what I have said, Horizon is one of its kind. There are a couple of flight training academies in the region, but they are either military or civil and not like us having both under one roof. 
 
We are continuing to set the benchmark for pilot training worldwide by guiding tomorrow’s aviators and upskilling today’s experienced pilots. We are developing more advanced courses, expanding our single and twin-engine helicopter training programmes, and bringing the latest high-tech simulators.

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