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Tackling Aviation Sector’s Manpower Challenges

Posted: Jun 5, 2015 at 12:24 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Abel Orukpe

 

The aviation industry like other sectors of the Nigerian economy is facing a lot of challenges. Though, the industry contributes a paltry 0.4 per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), its importance and potentials makes it necessary for these challenges to be addressed.

Though the country is not in the first three in Africa when it comes to aviation, but it status as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category one holder shows that its aviation and manpower issue cannot be ignored.

However, Nigeria is one of the leading countries in the African continent and the leader in both West and Central Africa having some of the best airlines in these regions.

Nigeria has also contributed its quota to world aviation in terms of qualified personnel. For instance, the Former Secretary General of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Mr. Nick Fadugba and also the current President of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Dr Benard Aliu are both Nigerians.

From November 18, 2013 when he was announced as ICAO president till date, Aliu has been steering the ship of the international aviation body professionally.

Safety wise the country’s aviation industry has passed several ICAO audits and as at the time of compiling this report, another ICAO audit started on Monday, June 1, 2015.

Nigeria had also passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification twice .First was the mandatory audit in September 2010, which led to the attainment of Category 1 status and another one in 2014

The essence of the FAA audit in 2014 is to confirm that all the safety measures that were put in place in 2010 are still intact. This makes it mandatory for them to come after four years for revalidation.

Having audited the country’s aviation sector, the FAA gave Nigeria a pass mark thereby revalidating the Category one status she first attained in 2010 in 2014.

Today, Nigeria’s aviation sector is one of the few aviation industries in Africa that have attained the FAA Category 1 status. Other African countries that have FAA Category 1 include Cape Verde, Egypt and Ethiopia.

However, despite these feats at international level, the country’s aviation sector is still bedeviled by challenges of inadequate manpower. For example, experts in the industry agree that the country’s aviation industry has ageing work force.

They have also argued severally that the ageing manpower that are left in the industry today, were those inherited from the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL).

They further contended that when NAL was in existence, manpower was not a challenge because the entity massively trained aviation personnel and that till date, the aviation professionals of the moribund national carrier that was liquidated under questionable circumstances could be found in all domestic airlines in the country.

This confirms arguments in some quarters that even in death NAL remain the only airline that invested heavily on manpower development.

For example, its products such as pilots, engineers, flight dispatchers and cabin crews are still working for domestic airlines.

This situation is so because other airlines do not invest much in training for fear of being poached after spending huge amount on them. Instead they prefer to engage foreign pilots and engineers that are cost effective.

The dearth of manpower in the industry was further confirmed by the former Aviation Minister, Chief Osita Chidoka, while launching Aviation Commits Initiative’ and while also presenting his score card in the twilight of his handing over in Lagos.

Chidoka said at the event that there was ageing manpower in the agencies.

Most of the domestic airlines in the country he said do not want to invest in manpower development, adding that instead they prefer to poach form one another thereby further widening the gap of inadequate manpower in the sector.

As result of that, Chidoka stated that henceforth domestic airlines would be required to submit a training plan to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as a condition for revalidating their Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).

According to him, “The act of most of the operators is to poach personnel from one and other, rather than train staff, which destabilises the safety culture. Henceforth, airlines would be required to train personnel yearly across the aviation landscape, which include pilots, aircraft engineers, air traffic controllers, information officers and cabin crew.

He continued, “part of their Air Operator’s Certificate(AOC), requirements is for them to show us a plan to train people in these areas and no airline operator would get its AOC or operating license revalidated by NCAA unless it shows us its plans for training. We are not interested in poaching, but we need to grow local manpower. We are committed to that”.

To also ensure that Nigerian pilots gain experience, gain hours in the course of flying and also ensure that there are enough Nigerian pilots in all the cockpits of both General Aviation and commercial airlines, Chidoka also directed both operators of general aviation and commercial airlines operating in the country to make sure a Nigerian pilot is in their cockpit.

“Effective from July 1, 2015, all airlines operating both general and commercial services in Nigeria must have a Nigerian pilot in their cockpits. We cannot grow Nigeria without Nigerians. For us to grow Nigeria, we need Nigerians. We have been trying to get information from operators and we got this information from those who operate in the industry. We do know that Nigeria aviation industry has come of age and we hope to maximise the benefits for Nigerians,” he said.