Pilotless Aircraft

This concept started in post war USA when flying Remote Controlled or R/C airplanes became a fad for both young and old alike. They were quite expensive toys in those days mind you.

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This concept of flying R/C propeller driven aircraft using methanol as its fuel to power its small single piston engine later on evolved into using small fanjet engines to power their R/C jets. Their range and altitude, however, are limited to about a mile and a few hundred feet or so. But I surmise it was fun flying these rich man's "toys" like the real thing from the ground. It took a lot of skill to fly these airplanes. Because of their ability to be remotely flown, american engineers began development of what we call drones or pilotless aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Initially used by the US Air Force for target practice of their fighter jets, drones were further refined and developed for aerial surveillance. With much success, these pilotless "eyes in the skies" spy planes were extensively used by the US military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which later on led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. While not content with its surveillance role, the US military developed this drones to carry weapons of mass destruction.

Today, these drones are deployed in war-stricken countries in the world. They prove to be devastating. These drones can carry smart bombs or fire deadly guided missles with pinpoint accuracy.

I am sure the time will come when fighter aircraft will no longer be piloted by man for dog fighting or bombing runs but instead controlled on the ground by a skilled operator. This concept of warfare will indeed save many precious lives of fighter pilots.

Just look at the countless lives of pilots lost on all sides during the last two world wars. Yes, the war of the future will just be like a video game.

Moving on further, big aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus are currently experimenting on the commercial aspect and development of a passenger airliner of the future. Yes, you guessed it right. These innovative airliners will be pilotless and remotely controlled from the ground. Considering the immense success of drones, these pilotless airliners will duplicate the capabilities of drone technology and can fly intercontinental routes and reach altitudes of 35,000 feet above sea level, or perhaps even more. Amazing technology, isn't it? Imagine a 300-500 seater jumbo jet flying thousands of miles without human intervention in the cockpit.

Now, let me ask you this question. Should this time come, would you agree to be a passenger to fly on a remotely controlled pilotless airliner of the near future?

This is your captain speaking...

Avionics Technology

AVIONICS -- An acronym for Aviation Electronics.

Avionics follows the same basic principles of universal electronics. Its application however, is limited to aircraft or aviation usage.

Avionics Tech deals with the same standard Wiring Diagram symbols and the same basic test equipment just like any other electronics tech. The only dividing line is the more stringent and rigid knowledge and proficiency an Avionics Tech employs on the job.

Firstly, he must be licensed (by Civil Aviation Authority) either as a limited RE (Radio Electronics) Technician or more higher REI (Radio Electronics & Instruments) licensee. To qualify as an REI Technician, he must have extensive years of experience on the job preferably with factory training certifications to back him up before he takes his Licensure Examination.

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In the field of Avionics, highly specialized training come from big names like Garmin, Honeywell, Collins, Avidyne, and Bendix to name a few. This equips the avionics technician to handle the latest digital technology, Navigational and Communication Equipment (NAVCOM), Global Positioning System (GPS), Flight Directors and Autopilot System installed on aircraft. They are also trained to bench check, troubleshoot or repair aircraft instruments on shop (off aircraft) and on field (on aircraft).

This profession is in high demand. In fact, most Filipino REI's are currently employed in many airlines abroad.

Aircraft Maintenance Technology

Aircraft Mechanics in the Philippines are graduates of either a 4-Year Course in B.S. Aircraft Maintenance Engineering or a 2-Year Course on Aircraft Maintenance Technology. Nonetheless, a graduate of either course need to obtain an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) License from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Before the applicant is qualified to take the Licensure Exam, he must be certified by his Aviation Employer to have spent at least two (2) years hands on On-the-Job Training (OJT). Basically, he must learn the rudiments of performing "Aircraft Maintenance Inspections and Repairs".

He is exposed to inspection of aircraft Engines, Landing Gear Systems, Brakes, Pumps, Hydraulic Devices, Valves, or other parts that may require regular and/or "Preventive Maintenance". He must know how to make proper Aircraft Maintenance Logbook (AML) entries, records and documentations.

He can specialize on Sheet-metal / Airframe and Power-plant, repairs and overhaul. Normally, an Aircraft Mechanic License would show the various types of aircraft he is rated on. He then can "sign-off and release" an aircraft for flight. Or, he can be authorized to do engine run-ups and taxiing. Regular "In-house Training" or "Recurrency Training" will further enhance his skills as an Aircraft Mechanic.

Lufthansa Technik Philippines also provides various trainings not only for their employees but also for other GENAV companies.

Pilots rely on the expertise of his mechanic. There should always be no room for error. It is an exacting job and very much in demand here and abroad!

Flight Engineer versus Aeronautical Engineer

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A Flight Engineer (A&P Licensed) is part of the Pilot Crew of an airline. He is responsible for the monitoring and systems check of the aircraft on flight. He should be an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) License Holder, factory trained and rated on the aircraft he flies with and preferably with flying background. As an example, Flight Engineer of an Airbus must be trained in their factory in France.

In general, there are NO Flight Engineer needed on GENAV aircraft (light aircraft). An Aeronautical Engineer (AE Licensed) MUST have passed the Board Exam and normally is assigned to do "Aircraft Maintenance and Material Planning/Control". He makes sure the Aircraft Mechanics (A&P) follow the books to the letter all the time.

Airline Operations is totally different. It is more rigid because their planes fly all the time and log thousands of hours yearly.


A question often asked by many many a lot is -- How come airline passengers aren't provided with parachutes while on flight?

It is a common notion that a parachute is thought of as a safety device. Actually, to learn how to use a parachute is a specialized skill that needs hours upon hours of actual training before one is allowed to jump out of an airplane on flight. Military Paratroopers undergo such kind of rigorous training.

Now if you were a passenger on board a crippled aircraft on an emergency situation, would you jump out the plane even if you were given a parachute? It would be your first time to see and to hold one. Would you know how to strap it on yourself and use it properly? Do you know where the ripcord is located? Maybe you don't even know what a ripcord is.

There are many many more questions an ordinary passenger cannot definitely answer. The composition of a passenger airliner may include a mix of the elderly, the aged, men, women and children of all ages. Jumping out of an airplane neither instinctive nor spontaneous even in life threatening situations. Like I said earlier, one must spend lots of time to train and qualify as a certified parachutist. No airline would ever entertain such an idea.

So my dear readers, that's the reason why parachutes are not allowed and provided to passengers on board airliners. Life Vest is a MUST in all aircraft. It is a proven safety device that will keep a passenger afloat should the aircraft crash lands over water.


In 1941, Philippine Airlines (PAL) officially became the country's Flag Carrier and the first and oldest airline in Asia.

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During Martial Law years, Marcos adopted the One Airline Policy and made PAL a virtual monopoly. It took over the management and operations of two of its major competitors then. Those were Filipinas Orient Airways and Air Manila. Thereafter, a short lived airline emerged (named Grand Air International) but went bankrupt as fast as it became operational. After the EDSA Revolution, PAL had financial problems and went into Receivership. The new management of the Lucio Tan group took over and a subsidiary airline of PAL was born. This was Air Philippines (AirPhil Express), now PAL Express.

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Officially incorporated in 1988, a newbie airline called Cebu Pacific Air (CebuPac) was created by Gokongwei group to compete head-on with PAL. It started full operation in 1996. Smaller airlines also evolved at that time towards the present like Aerolift Philippines, Laoag International Airlines, Pacific East Asia Cargo Airlines, Asian Spirit, Pacific Pearl Airways, Mindanao Express, South Phoenix Airlines, and Mosphil Aero (all defunct). Seair / Tigerair Philippines and ZestAir / Air Asia Philippines are currently operating domestic and international services.

CebuPac is now the Philippines' largest carrier and was ranked 5th in Asia for Budget Airline Operations in 2008. This airline is growing fast and is sure giving PAL a run of its money.

Let's wait and see what PAL has under its sleeve! Looks promising!

[Originally published in Bubblews, September 16, 2013 by Yvonne Novela aka AdGoggleKo]

Pilot Training

Pilot Training starts by being a licensed Student Pilot. Then he goes Solo. He can now qualify for a Private Pilot's license. Once he logs the required flying time, he can upgrade and qualify for a Commercial Pilot's license. Thereafter, his professional career starts maybe a Corporate Pilot or an Airline Pilot.

I learned that taking up flying can be rather expensive. The whole course may cost in the vicinity of Php4M nowadays. Average time frame is around two (2) years. That of course depends on the student's aptitude or flying skills. But mind you, the rewards are fantastic. How would you like to earn a ball park figure of USD8-10K/month as an airline pilot overseas? Maybe more. That's why Airline Pilots are ranked one of the Top 3 Highest Paying Jobs. Corporate Pilots average Php150-300K/month in the Philippines. Not bad, isn't it? Come to think of it, there is a shortage of pilots worldwide.

If only I had the dough, I would like to brush elbows with lady pilots flying Jumbo Jets as Captains or First Officers (Co-pilot). I wonder how I'd look like on a Pilot's uniform. Wow! Just a dream!


Pilots are a rare breed of men and women. Yes women, mind you. There are a lot of lady captains now flying airliners worldwide. Out of let's say hundred thousand individuals only one or maybe two have chosen flying to be their profession, career or passion and are dedicated pilots today.

Flying must be an innate trait or attribute in one's personality. Even as a child he must show positive interest on airplanes and aviation. His toys, books, choice of movies, thoughts and aspirations are good manifestations and indicators. That's a good sign that the child can be what he wants to be someday.

You can never force a person to become a pilot just because his parents want him to be one. Flying must run in one's blood so to speak. Not just because his father is or was a pilot but because it's a calling or passion that's deep in his heart and mind. Otherwise, he may end up failing the course or may sadly end up dead meat. Flying is an art and skill that must be continually polished and honed thru rigid training by those whose heart is in flying. It is an exact science with no room for error.

There are many professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. who take up flying on their spare time. It is indeed a passion that is ready built in and instilled in one's self, consciously or subconsciously. Then it becomes a realization of one's longtime dream.

That makes aviators a rare breed of men. You must be like a bird to fly. You can never teach and make a dog fly!

Philippine Aeronautical Schools

The biggest and most popular aeronautical schools are PATTS College of Aeronautics (my alma matter) based in Paranaque City, Airlink International Aviation College and Philippine State College of Aeronautics both based in Pasay City, FEATI University located in Sta. Cruz Manila and the University of Perpetual Help located in Las Pinas City.

Up North, you have WCC Aeronautical & Technological College (Binalonan Pangasinan) and ACATECH (Angeles City, Pampanga).

In the Visayas region, you also have Asian College of Aeronautics (Bacolod and Iloilo cities), Red Aeronautics and Technological Institute (Negros Occidental), Negros Oriental State University (Dumaguete City), Aviatur & Indiana School of Aeronautics (Cebu City), MATS College of Technology (Davao City), and Palawan State University (Puerto Princessa).

I may have missed some but these schools offer formal 4 Year Courses such B.S. Aeronautical Engineering, Aircraft Maintenance Technology, Avionics Technology, Air Transportation, Airline Secretarial / Office Administration and various airline related courses. They must not be compared to Flying Schools although a few of them may also have Flying School departments.

Well, I am glad I took up my Airline Secretarial course at the PATTS College of Aeronautics. Thereafter, I spent twelve (12) good years of my life working with the aviation industry. The rest is history!

Philippine General Aviation

General Aviation or GENAV comprises of Corporate Aircraft Owners and Operators, Air Taxi or Air Charter Companies, Aircraft Maintenance Organizations, Fixed Based Operators (FBO's), Aviation Academies and Flying Schools, Aircraft Dealers and Distributors, Aircraft Spare Parts Distributors, Avionics Sales and Services, Light Aircraft Manufacturers and Assemblers, Aircraft Flight Simulator Centers, Air Courier Services, Air Ambulance and Medical Evacuation companies, Aerial Surveyors and Photo Mapping Services, Air Cargo Operators, and Ground Support Equipment & Ground Handling companies.

Yes, GENAV is a large industry that provides vital services needed for the economic growth of the country. GENAV doesn't include Airline Operations which is a distinct entity by itself although it forms part of the entire aviation industry. With the fast improving Philippine economy we hope to see more proactive and progressive General Aviation Industry in the near future.

[Originally published in Bubblews September 10, 2013 by Yvonne Novela aka AdGoggleKo]