HORIZON – Setting Benchmark for Pilot Training

With state-of-the-art facilities and a multinational team of experienced instructors, HORIZON, the premier flight academy in the Middle East, offers international-standard and bespoke rotary wing training to commercial and military aviators. HarebThani Hareb Al Dhaheri, Chief Executive Officer, HORIZON International Flight Academy, speaks about their futuristic goals and expansion plans. Excerpts from the interview:

HORIZON ACADEMY’s immediate goal is to obtain a full Approved Training Organisation (ATO) certification from GCC countries and to shape the Academy into a one-stop-shop for all aviation training needs

Hareb Thani Hareb Al Dhaheri has been the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at HORIZON International Flight Academy since 2011. As a retired Brigadier and Pilot with the UAE Armed Forces, he has amassed more than 30 years of experience in aviation and education. He started his career as a helicopter pilot in the UAE Armed Forces and went on to hold multiple senior positions in the military.

HORIZON is now the region’s largest helicopter flight training academy. Could you shed some light on HORIZON’s journey since its establishment in 2003, the run-up to establishing this company for training pilots locally and regionally?

For over 18 years, the company has trained and upskilled rotary wing pilots locally and regionally, playing a fundamental role in the development of aviation capability, while setting the benchmark for quality across the MENA region. Since our launch in 2003, we have grown to become the premier flight academy in the Middle East. We offer international-standard and bespoke rotary wing training to leading commercial and military operators. With state-of-the-art facilities and a multinational team of experienced instructors, HORIZON’s basic and advanced training programmes are taught and delivered to the highest standards of safety, quality, and efficiency, in the industry.

What are HORIZON’s state-of-the-art facilities and capabilities, for delivering training programmes? Could you also shed some light on various training courses the academy offers?

At HORIZON, we have a 10,000 sq. metre training facility located at 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. We offer basic and advanced training courses for single and twin-engine helicopters for civilian and military purposes, including Qualified Military Pilot Bridge Course (QMP), Instrument Rating IR (H), Flight Instructor FI(H), and Commercial Pilot License CPL (H), Privet Pilot License (PPL), among others. In addition to the standard courses, Horizon offers specialised Night Vision Goggle (NVG), Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC) courses and Air Transportation Pilot License (ATPL). Our comprehensive selection of international standard flight training courses is designed to cater for a range of students and skill levels. In addition to single and twin-engine helicopter training, we also provide a diverse array of aviation courses, which all offer a mix of practical and theoretical experience in flight safety, ground safety, aircraft accident investigation and management, aviation management, crew resource management, and management of flight safety and accident investigation.

More than 1500 pilots have already graduated from HORIZON. Could you give a detailed picture of the team and the international standards which are being followed?

Our multi-lingual trainers deliver theoretical and practical training, including flight and ground safety and accident investigation.  Our advanced, industry-standard programmes train over 100 pilots every year and we are proud to help add to the UAE’s pool of talent and boost the maturity of the local and international aviation industry, enabling them to earn nationally and internationally recognised qualifications. We have received a number of internationally recognised approvals and certifications for our work, including ISO 9001: 2015. Our training courses comply with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) standards and we are also officially approved by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

In order to build pilot skills and enhance operational flexibility, HORIZON must be constantly seeking new and innovative training technologies. Are you developing more advanced courses for upskilling today’s experienced pilots?

We ensure that we operate our training courses on the most modern of fleets, with the Bell 505, 407 and 429 all in service at our training academy in Al Ain, as well as four different state-of-the-art simulators. 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 also leverage the latest advanced technologies to ensure our training is cutting-edge, with computer-based training, multimedia classrooms, iPad technology, glass cockpit helicopters. We recently 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 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 in the latest high-tech simulators to meet the growing demands of our industry.

HORIZON, in its efforts to continue set the benchmark for pilot training worldwide, may also be seeking new world-class partners. What are the expansion plans and priorities in the near future?

We started our expansion plans three years ago. We introduced a new fleet, the Bell 505.We have also expanded by adding helipads to our tarmac to accommodate up to18 helicopters at a time. Our immediate goal is to obtain a full Approved Training Organisation (ATO) certification from GCC countries and to shape Horizon Academy into a one-stop-shop for all aviation training needs.

The defence and aerospace industry across the world is bearing the brunt of Covid-19 pandemic. What are the measures initiated by HORIZON to overcome the pandemic effect and to continue train a new generation of world-class pilots?

Horizon is actively adapting despite the current challenges. Our Distance Learning System and other online learning tools have been upgraded to take in and continue the theoretical portion of our pilot education programs, thereby allowing our students to attend classes from home. We are ensuring the protection of our students and staff, while staying compliant with UAE government regulations, directives and recommendations. Our Safety and Compliance department at Horizon have intensified their routine of disinfecting and cleaning aircraft and simulators, which are now being sanitized after each 1-on-1 lesson at the training locations in Al Ain where we are still able to operate and we are confident in our ability to ensure seamless training service during these challenging times.

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