One of the major challenges in manpower development in aviation is industry is the cost of training. Many young people dream of becoming pilots in the future but when the cost of training is broached, many parents know that they won't be able to afford it.
Not only the exorbitant cost, in Nigeria there is another great huddle; how do you get the required number of flight hours required for the next level after you have obtained your Commercial Pilot License? When the pilot has obtained this license, he is expected to go for type rating; that is specialising in a particular aircraft type. It is after that time that he could be employed as a flight officer.
In Nigeria, the challenge is there is no platform for the person who has a Commercial Pilot License to type-rate on any particular aircraft. Such platform was provided by the defunct Nigerian Airways, which actually trained most Nigerian pilots that operate today in different parts of the world. But with the demise of the national carrier, there was a plunge to the valley in the area of manpower development in the aviation industry.
In Africa, South Africa Airways, Kenya Airways, Ethiopia Airlines, Air Maroc and Egypt Air are some of the major national carriers in the continent that churn out trained pilots every year and also provide them the aircraft for type rating before they start flying as flight officers. Countries like Ethiopia and Kenya supply the Middle East and others pilots and other aviation personnel because they have successful training academy that have lasted for years and they latch on their national airlines, which provide the platform for the trained pilots to garner flight hours.
Since after the demise of Nigeria Airways, Nigerian airlines, which are known to have very short life span, never lived up to this responsibility of training high number of aviation personnel and because they could not train these pilots they resort to employing expatriate pilots who have acquired the needed training and certificates to operate their aircraft. In Nigeria, many trained pilots are unemployed today because they have not type-rated on particular aircraft type so they cannot grow to become captains who are sought after all over the world.
The airlines have argued that the times they engaged Nigerians with Commercial Pilot License and type rated them the beneficiaries left without serving the airlines long enough; rather, they would go to Middle East where they are paid juicy salaries with pampering welfare package.
When THISDAY visited Ethiopia Training Academy in Addis Ababa recently, the Senior Sales and Services Officer, Yohannes Bellete said the academy was established to cater for Ethiopia and other people from different parts of Africa and today many students come to train the institution from other parts of the continent and parts of the Middle East.
The academy has Pilots Training School, Aircraft Maintenance Technicians School, School of Marketing and Finance, Cabin Crew Training School with modern mock up and Full Flight Simulator Training for Boeing B737, B757 and B767, B787 B777 and Bombardier aircraft, Q400. The academy has the capacity to take 4,000 trainees at a time.
In addition to these, the airline has one of the most modern and largest catering facilities in Africa with a daily capacity of 100,000 meals production.
Speaking after a facility tour at the Ethiopian airline academy, Addis Ababa, Sable Wongel Azene, Manager ET-Holidays also disclosed that the airline has the largest and oldest Maintenance Repair Overhaul, (MRO) Center in Africa. In this facility, there are six maintenance hangars, airframe maintenance, engine maintenance, component maintenance, line maintenance, AOG (Aircraft on Ground) Services and third party maintenance
It is worth noting that the academy in Ethiopia was built at the same time at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT, Zaria, but that of Ethiopia has soared that it has garnered all the international aviation training certification from renowned aviation institutions such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and others. One of the things that killed aviation manpower training in Nigeria is the failure to deepen the training locally because the national airline is not there to provide aircraft for type-rating.
Last year, the former Deputy Managing Director of Arik Air who is now the CEO of Aero Contractors explained why Nigerian airlines employ seasoned pilots from outside the country. Sanusi said that Nigerian airlines go for expatriate pilots because of reliability and the fact that after training Nigerian pilots they don't often stay with the airline that trained them long enough to justify the resources expended on their training.
He said that airlines would be reluctant to take in a pilot who has only, for example, 250 flight hours.
"In developed countries if you finish with 250 hours you don't go to airlines, you go to flying school till you get 1,500 hours before you start coming to fly for airlines. It is when you get Airline Pilot License (APL) before you even come to fly for an airline. But we take them with commercial pilot license, with very low hours, we train them or let us say they even trained themselves, they come to us with very low hours, 250 hours, 300 hours.
"Taking a trainee pilot with that number of hours will increase the airline's insurance premium because the airline is putting an inexperienced, low time co-pilot inside the airplane, increasing the airline's insurance premium and then putting a lot of stress on the aircraft because they are going to be doing training and everything. And when the pilot becomes proficient, then he now says I am paying him small remuneration and he leaves," Sanusi said.
He noted that in some airlines in Europe, the pilot trainee pays to get that kind of experience, "When you come in with low flying hours you pay the airline to gain up to 500, 1000 hours on the type of the aircraft. But now I am bringing you in, giving you this training on the aircraft, giving you the opportunity to have this experience, without government incentive to the airline and I am a privately owned company, I am doing business purely on profit basis; I am not doing it on charity. Then after you have been trained, after I have paid my insurance premium very high, after I have suffered a lot on my landing gear because of hard landings that pilots do while training, after I have suffered all that expense in maintenance of the aircraft and other expenses you now say I am paying you little, so you want to leave me and go to another airline"
Nigerian will have comprehensive training institution for pilots and other aviation personnel if it builds strong, large airlines that are fully supported by government. That way, the country would not be travelling overseas to engage expatriates, and then hundreds of those pilots in Nigeria who are currently unemployed will get jobs.