More Pilots Needed in Africa

African aviation authorities have admitted to a serious shortage of qualified personnel amid projections that the world would need over a million pilots and maintenance staff in the next 20 years.

Also, a study by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), East & Southern African Office (ESAF), has revealed that Africa needs to train about 1 500 aviation operators, 600 aircraft maintenance personnel and 4 000 airport operators urgently.

The report said that 67 percent of aviation training centres in Africa had less than 10 instructors, while only four institutions had a staff compliment of over 40 instructors.

The data was collected from 75 respondents in 37 of the 54 countries on the continent, while more countries were yet to respond.

This came out of a three-day Pan-African Civil Aviation Training Conference, which started in Cape Town, South Africa on Wednesday morning.

To counter the problem, the conference delegates sought to harmonise training standards across the continent.

They also wanted to come up with an Association of Training Organizations, Centres of Excellence and a Training Advisory Board, among other institutions of mutual interest.

The delegates also sought to adopt criteria on how to recognise various qualifications, such as diplomas or degrees, obtained in different countries.

Regional manager of ICAO, Maamoune Chakira, said that demand for training was “very high” and could not meet supply.

Special advisor Lerato Molebatsi, who addressed the delegates on behalf of  SA’s Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, cited a Boeing report saying that the commercial aviation industry would need over a million pilots and maintenance personnel in the next 20 years.

“Our challenge is adapting our training to engage the future generation of people who will fly and maintain the more than 30 000 airplanes that would be delivered by 2029.”

On safe travel, she said that 3.1 million spectators attended the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and returned home without harm.

“Safety is attained when users do not think about their safety at all. Safety is attained when safety no longer becomes an issue,” she said.

Molebatsi said that following the signing into law of the Yamoussukro Decision by African heads of state in 2000, South Africa had since made effective policy measures.

She said that in 2006, Cabinet approved the Airlift Strategy, which sought to achieve an increase in air frequencies ahead of demand.

“These frequencies form the basis of the various air services agreements which South Africa has in place with other African countries. The strategy of creating capacity ahead of demand allows for greater market access to support growth and competition in the air transport sector.

“On this continent, we depend on one another to develop our resources, when one state benefits, we all benefit from high standards in training and safety.

“Our quest is not only to meet the demand for qualified personnel, but to provide the expertise that will provide oversight in safety, security and environment, specific recommendations in response to accidents and smooth operational management,” she said.

Molebatsi said it was clear that “standardised courses and a coordinated approach” would provide the “excellence required if we want to maintain a good record of aviation safety on the continent.”