The Asia-Pacific will need 440,000 new pilots and aircraft technicians over the next two decades - more than North America and Europe combined.

The estimate from US planemaker Boeing yesterday underscores how fast the region's air travel business is set to grow.

Boeing said in its annual manpower outlook that the region's demand accounts for almost 40 per cent of the global need.

Mr Bob Bellitto, director (customer group) of Boeing Flight Services, told a briefing here yesterday: "The Asia-Pacific region is seeing tremendous economic growth and is set to become the largest air travel market in the world."

This will translate into "booming career opportunities" for those interested in becoming commercial airline pilots and maintenance technicians, he added. "These are strong, stable and challenging jobs in one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world."

China, followed by South-east Asia, will lead the region's demand for cockpit and maintenance crew, Boeing said.

Despite challenges faced by Asian carriers, including oversupply of flights and seats that have brought fares and margins down, the region's middle- to long-term prospects are bright, aviation analysts said.

The International Air Transport Association estimates that between last year and 2017, passenger traffic in the Asia-Pacific will grow by 5.7 per cent a year, compared with 3.9 per cent in Europe and 3.6 per cent in North America.

The region also leads the need for planes - 13,460 new jets are expected to be delivered to carriers over the next two decades.

Boeing and European rival Airbus have stepped up their training efforts to ensure there are enough pilots and technicians.

In February, Airbus and Singapore Airlines announced plans to jointly set up a new pilot school at Seletar Aerospace Park.

The $80 million Airbus Asia Training Centre will be 55 per cent owned by the European firm and 45 per cent by SIA.

Boeing has a training facility near Changi Airport.