Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Indigenous Airlines Don’t Train, Recruit Nigerian Pilots

Chinedu Eze

The tendency of Nigerian pilots to seek greener pastures after being trained by indigenous airlines has been identified as the major reason why the local operators have restrained from deploying funds for manpower development and rely more on expatriates to operate their equipment.

There have been cases of Nigerian pilots and engineers seeking better remunerations from international carriers after they have been trained by indigenous operators without working for these airlines for specific number of years to justify the money spent on them.

Poaching has been a recurrent feature in the aviation industry due to dearth of manpower world wide, so pilots and engineers are highly sought after by airlines, especially airlines in the Middle East like Emirates, Qatar and others, so many Nigerians who were trained by indigenous airlines may not be able to resist mouth-watering pay packs when dangled before them by these mega carriers.

Therefore, indigenous airlines are seeking for a policy that will restrain pilots from seeking for other jobs until they have served the company that trained them for a specific number of years before moving to other airlines.

The airlines are also asking that government should implement the Fly Nigeria Act, whereby anybody traveling on government expense must patronize indigenous airlines, noting that with such incentive, domestic carriers could deploy huge funds for manpower development, knowing that with such Act they would be recording high patronage of passengers which would boost their operation.

A major operator told THISDAY on Wednesday that Ethiopian government has a policy which stipulates that when Ethiopia Airlines trains a pilot and he gets jobs elsewhere after his training, 10 per cent of his salary would be sent to the airline every month to recoup the funds expended on his training by the national carrier.

“We have 10 Ethiopian pilots in our employment and the Ethiopian Airlines insists that we must sign remittance agreement before we employ those pilots. The agreement is that we must pay 10 per cent of each pilot’s salary to the airline and that is what we are doing,” the operator disclosed.

He said that it saves the airline money to employ expatriates who are already trained and have experience than to train Nigerian pilots and after training them they are poached by other airlines, so the indigenous carrier incurs losses as it ceases to enjoy the services of the pilot it has trained.

“Everybody wants to use our airline as a training ground. Out of 65 pilots we trained few years ago, only 24 are still working for us. Government should have a policy that will direct the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that if you train a pilot, the agency will not allow the person to work elsewhere until after some years.

"But now when we complain NCAA will tell you it is a free market; that it cannot stop a pilot from being engaged elsewhere; so we lose. It is wrong for NCAA to say it is a free market. It means that government is not serious about local content. That is a realistic way to create jobs,” the operator said.

However, the Deputy Managing Director and the head of Flight Operations of Arik Air, Captain Ado Sanusi said the airline has been training Nigerians despite the fact that most of them seek greener pastures after their training.

He said that although the airline has trained Nigerian on ab initio but it is now emphasizing on initial type rating whereby the airline trains Nigerians on particular aircraft so that when they finish the training they will begin to operate these aircraft, adding that this provides jobs, while the ab initio training requires that the pilot will need further training to qualify to handle aircraft.