Etihad Airways Chief Operations Officer, Captain Richard Hill, has turned the first sod to mark the construction of a US$15.3 million extension to the airline’s Flight Training Centre at its Abu Dhabi headquarters.

The new 5,300 square metre facility will house six flight simulator training bays, classrooms for pilot and cabin crew training, pilots’ briefing and debriefing rooms, a new pilots’ lounge and offices.

Captain Hill said: “This expanded high-tech training and infrastructure facility will be one of the best in the world when completed in November 2013.

“It will be a showpiece for how we train and maintain the skills of our more than 1,200 professional pilots and 3,200 cabin crew, in addition to offering crew training support to our strategic airline partners.

“We also see this investment in training facilities as a critical piece of infrastructure linked to Etihad Airways’ own organic growth and the arrival of new fleet types in the years ahead, such as the Airbus A380, A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.”

Etihad Airways will install flight simulators for all of these new aircraft types in the expanded facility. The UAE flag carrier has more than 90 aircraft on firm order with Airbus and Boeing, and to match this fleet growth, has plans to recruit 1,000 pilots and 9,000 cabin crew by 2020.

Etihad Airways’ existing Flight Training Centre opened in 2007 and houses two Airbus A330/A340, one Airbus A320, and one Boeing 777 flight simulator. The facility operates 24 hours a day.

Since 2007, the facility has trained more than 1,600 pilots and 4,000 cabin crew.

Captain Hill concluded: “I would like to thank the Abu Dhabi Municipality, the Urban Planning Council, Government bodies and the Abu Dhabi Civil Defence Departments for their support with this project.”