Nairobi, Kenya — The East African aviation industry is losing highly skilled manpower to other countries, especially the Middle East.
The General Secretary for the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Raymond Benjamin said until recently, the rate of loss was manageable but it is now important to avert a crisis by focusing on the training and hiring of more staff.
Low pay has however resulted in brain-drain as Kenyan pilots leave to seek better returns with international airlines.
Regional airlines have voiced their concern about losing pilots to the bigger players.
Benjamin was speaking during the launch of a training programme for pilots, air traffic controllers and technical staff.
Director General of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Hilary Kioko said the national airspace regulator has spent Sh1.2 billion over 10 years to improve the East African School of Aviation (EASA).
Kioko said the funds have been used to improve on infrastructure, training facilities as well as instructor development programs.
Kioko added that it will contribute largely to Vision 2030 by helping the aviation industry meet its human resource needs.
Kenya needs 2,000 more pilots to meet the current demand of 5,000 pilots. There are 500 aircraft engineers at the moment.
Estimated costs for training a traffic controller stands at Sh3.5 million while an aviation engineer takes up Sh1 million at the diploma level.
"We are looking to set up schools of excellence in every county that will set the standards for any new training facility," Benjamin further added.
He said most of the skills offered by private colleges cannot be absorbed by international airlines because they don't have recognised certification.
The airlines industry has in the recent past witnessed expansion and entry of new players that has piled pressure on the local talent pool.
The number of aircraft landing in Kenya has also increased from 757 in 2008 to 1,056 in 2011 with operators acquiring bigger aircraft.