Bhanu Choudhrie Sparks Interest in Airline Pilot Training
The 10th anniversary of teaching aspiring pilots the MultiCrew Pilot License (MPL) system and graduating successful cadets marks a milestone for Alpha Aviation Academy (AAA). As the leading pilot training service in the Middle East, the company plans to increase its name recognition and become the largest provider of educational content for pilots. With an emphasis on diversity, the company’s outreach to enroll women and students from 65 countries may help it achieve its goal. A recent increase in the applicant age limit from 33 to 35 may encourage current pilots to enroll in the approximately two-year training program as well.
The man behind the success of the AAA program is Bhanu Choudhrie. He is the founder of Alpha Aviation Group – the company that started Alpha Aviation Academy – and the current director of C&C Alpha Group. As a leading entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist in London, he has won acclaim for his accomplishments. At the Asian Voice Political and Public Life Awards event in 2008, he received recognition as the Entrepreneur of the Year. With degrees from Boston University and Harvard Business School, he puts his knowledge and education to work in his private equity investments and in founding successful businesses.
Taking the Lead at a Young Age
With the industriousness and dedication that mark his career, Bhanu Choudhrie obtained an internship at JP Morgan even before he earned his undergraduate degree in International Business and Marketing in the United States. After relocating to London in 2000, he helped his family form a private equity firm the following year. Eighteen years later, he takes pride in having founded the highly successful C&C Alpha Group.
Now serving as C&C Alpha Group’s independent director, Choudhrie has also served in a variety of other roles at investment firms and companies across industries. In 2009 he was appointed to be a founding member of the Customers Bancorp Board, and in 2013 he was reappointed to a board seat that would be becoming vacant the following year.
Over the course of his career, Choudhrie has held investments in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the UK. His company, C&C Alpha Group Limited, is based in London and operated like a family business despite its impressive investments and returns. Founded in 2002, C&C also has offices outside of London in order to manage international investments around the globe. The C&C team is comprised of a wide range of experts in various fields, including investors, consultants, project managers, developers, financial analysts, and talented entrepreneurs whom Choudhrie has identified as having significant potential and the ability to land major deals.
Separately, Choudhrie also serves as one of the directors of Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation, which acts as a holding company for the Atlantic Coast Bank. The Atlantic Coast Bank is headquartered in Florida.
Choudhrie also serves as Trustee of a charity registered in the United Kingdom and known as the Path to Family Foundation.
In March of 2016, Choudhrie was able to complete the Owner/President Management Program at Harvard Business school
He formed Alpha Aviation Group Ltd in 2006 and partnered with Prescient Systems in a combined effort to confront the growing shortage of pilots qualified to work in commercial flights. Access to state-of-the-art concepts and training facilities provided an alternative to the lack of educational options that specifically address pilot preparation. His investments in aviation training facilities through Alpha Aviation Group (AAG) have made pilots more knowledgeable and skies safer.
Alpha Aviation Group is a Middle Eastern-based provider of pilot training, and has now become one of the largest and most highly regarded Multi-Crew Pilot License certifiers on the planet. In 2019, Alpha Aviation Group officially celebrated ten years since it received its first batch of trainees (though the company was officially founded in 2006.)
One of the primary areas that has set Alpha Aviation Group from other pilot training programs is its focus and emphasis on diversity. With over 330 graduates in the 51 groups that have gone through the academy, over 65 countries are represented. Not only that, but Alpha Aviation Group has also made a concerted effort to increase opportunities for female pilots in an industry that’s been historically dominated by men. Alpha Aviation Group has graduated 48 female pilots over the course of its existence, a ratio of 14% versus the industry-wide figure of 3$.
In recent months, Alpha Aviation Group has begun expanding its services to include an even more international focus, partnering with a wide range of established airlines and training centers to diversify their reach worldwide. These partnerships include Etihad Airways in the United Arab Emeriates and Airways Aviation in Australia.
More than just a business opportunity or investment strategy, Choudhrie has ensured that Alpha Aviation Group and Alpha Aviation Group go beyond mere profitability. He’s made it a personal mission to ensure that these academies present opportunities for those who might otherwise never have the chance to become pilots, despite having the skills, experiences, and desire to excel.
This has all paralleled a growing, dramatic demand for more pilots. This sharp uptick in demand is expected to reach a severe apex when more than 600,000 additional pilots will be needed by the year 2037 in order to meet the growing demands of the industry. For a field that struggles to identify and attract new trainees and talent, groups like Alpha Aviation are vitally necessary to keep the industry alive.
During Choudhrie’s recent keynote address at Alpha Aviation Academy’s 10th anniversary ceremony, he had this to say:
“I wish to congratulate Alpha Aviation Academy UAE for all they achieved over the last ten years. Not only is every single one of our cadets and graduates a source of great pride, but so too our ground-breaking work in promoting tolerance and diversity. We are extremely grateful to all our partners, without whom our work would not be possible,” said Bhanu Choudhrie, Shareholder and Director of Alpha Aviation Group (AAG).
“I am delighted over the last decade to have seen so many ambitious young men and women flourish under the guidance of the MPL course. Alpha Aviation Academy UAE has been one of the MPL’s key proponents since the training method was established, and I look forward to many more cadets, equipped with the skills of the MPL, taking to the skies,” said Captain Dieter Harms, Guest Speaker and the “Father of MPL”.
“We are extremely proud to be celebrating Alpha Aviation Academy UAE’s 10th anniversary, and I wish to congratulate ourselves and our partners. I would also on this joyous occasion like to thank all the staff and cadets who have helped us reach this important milestone,” said Captain Nadhem AlHamad, General Manager of Alpha Aviation Academy UAE. “We are looking forward to further ambitious growth and diversity in the coming years, and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure future generations of cadets have the best possible training to succeed.”
The investment strategy that Bhanu Choudhrie implemented with AAG incorporated the need to develop a supply of qualified commercial airline pilots ahead of an increase in demand for them. Noting that the risk/return ratio of starting of a new training facility for pilots may not attract new investors, Choudhrie acknowledges that it requires an extensive level of knowledge, skill and experience to undertake a venture. “Penetrating the market as a start-up,” he said, “presents a more significant challenge.” Even though more than half of new ideas usually fail for entrepreneurs as well as investors, Choudhrie had confidence in the bold, new concept.
He has also learned over a long career of investing that without the willingness to take risks and yes, sometimes fail, then great opportunities and incredible opportunities are always going to be slightly out of reach. It’s this attitude which has allowed him to become a thrilling investor across a wide range of industries, from aviation to real estate development and just about everything in-between.
But the story of Choudhrie and his investment in aviation goes beyond AAA and AAG, as he’s worked tirelessly to develop powerful and lasting relationships with airlines in an effort to foster more beneficial partnerships between these airlines and the organizations like AAA and AAG that train the pilots on which they rely.
Forming Relationships with Airlines
To create a market for the graduates from the training program, Choudhrie arranged partnerships with Airbus and Boeing as well as relationships with Air Arabia, Cebu Pacific, Jet Airways, Philippine Airlines, VietJet Air, Airways Aviation and Etihad Airways The outreach has enhanced the success of AAA in preparing more than 800 graduates to join the airline companies as qualified pilots. General manager Nadhem AlHamad stated that breaking down “gender and diversity barriers” has encouraged more young men and women to “take to the skies.” At present, women pilots comprise only 3 percent of the commercial pilot population. With 20 female cadets in training and 28 graduates ready to accept positions, AAA contributes to reducing the low level of qualified commercial pilots available to provide air travel.
Not only is this mission a morally vital one, it’s also essential to the future of the industry. The field of qualified pilots will continue to dwindle and struggle as long as the industry continues to fail to identify talent from all walks of life, not just those that have historically been used as fields for pilot talent in the past.
Expressing Approval for Accomplishments
The 10th anniversary confirms the viability of the concept that Bhanu Choudhrie envisioned for AAA. The program emphasizes training cadets to MPL standards that promote participation as integral components of a team of essential members. The concept rejects traditional methods that fail to develop the awareness of safety factors that aviation accidents have revealed. AAA guards against outdated methods by requiring cadets to undergo evaluations for academic fitness. The measurements that the company obtains through psychometric demonstrations, an interview and a medical examination provide data that can allow a cadet to pursue the training program. On graduation, cadets obtain the rank of Second Officer as a required step in advancing to the rank of First Officer and then to the rank of captain. The intensive course provides 1,500 hours of experience in flying the Airbus A320, an accomplishment that may enable graduates to help Alpha Aviation Academy provide pilots for Air Arabia.
It’s Choudhrie’s hope that more and more airlines around the world, including those in other major markets like the United States, will continue to see the potential and power of employee pilots trained in overseas organizations like AAA and AAG. This will help expand and diversify the wealth of experiences available in the airline industry, all while also providing a much-needed injection of new life and new talent in a field that desperately needs it—and will need it even more in the coming years, when over 600,000 new pilots are expected to be necessary in just the next two decades.
Bhanu Choudhrie firmly supports the concept of full-service training academies that offer an “all-encompassing experience” that includes “end-to-end pilot training.” He thinks that they provide the most optimal solution that lets airlines “outsource the entirety of their training requirements.” In expressing appreciation for the advances that AAA has made, he congratulated the company “for all they have achieved” during the last 10 years. Expressing gratitude to the organization’s partners, he acknowledged the critical role they played in making the anniversary possible. He cited “every single one of our cadets and graduates” who provide a source of great pride.
This level of involvement on a personal level has also become a hallmark of Choudhrie’s approach to investing. He has long claimed that investing is less about the money and more about the relationships with real people that come as a result of these affiliations. By staying actively involved with many of the operational elements of the organizations, evidenced by actions like his keynote address to pilots, trainees, and organizational administrators at the recent 10-year celebration, he shows the people who run these organizations that he truly believes in and cares about their mission. It’s far more than just an investment opportunity in his eyes, but something about which he can be proud and which can have a measurable positive impact on the world around him.
While Choudhrie focuses his attention on the needs of staffing the airline industry, he has other ventures that he pursues with the same entrepreneurial spirit and energy. In the field of hospitality, a subsidiary of his C&C Alpha Group 24 hotels offers elegant accommodations in 2000 rooms, and he has recently opened a new hotel in Vietnam. His restaurants won the highest award from Asian Voice Political and Public Life Awards in 2010. He funds Bollywood productions and actively supports India’s acting talent. Outside of the spotlight that involves real estate, hospitality, venture capitalism, the arts and entrepreneurial accomplishments, Choudhrie supports his mother’s Path to Success charity.
As a child, he went with her to visit schools for children who face challenges, and the memory of those experiences motivate him to help the less fortunate. He encourages entrepreneurs who want to follow his path to success to “surround yourself with hardworking and successful people.” He advocates for the idea that avoiding talented and smart people in an effort to avoid being supplanted will only lead to disaster, as the most successful investors and businesspeople are always searching for the smartest people they can possibly find to act in critical roles in their organizations. Only when people trust in each other’s abilities, Choudhrie says, can they begin to soar like the millions of flights now piloted by graduates of the Alpha Aviation Academy.
Connect with Bhanu Choudhrie