The Rector, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, (NCAT), Mohammed Abdulsalam, on Wednesday revealed that the country currently has over 300 unemployed young pilots who have yet to secure the necessary experience to gain employment in the industry.
Speaking with newsmen in Zaria, Kaduna state, Mr Abdulsalam, however, said that the spate of unemployment of young pilots was not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
“The issue of unemployment of pilots is not common to Nigeria.
“As you know, NCAT is a council member of Association of African Approved Training Organisation, AAATO.
“We hold two council meetings a year and at every meeting, we discuss pilots’ unemployment. Some countries have different requirements for pilots.
“In a lot of these countries, you need to have certain requirements or experience as a pilot before you can fly in the airline industry.
“For instance, in the United States, you need to have a minimum of 1,500 hours as a pilot before you can fly and join the likes of United and American Airlines and others,” he said.
Mr Abdulsalam noted that when pilots graduated from the training school, they were expected to join commuter airlines before going into general aviation.
The rector said that some of them stayed to work in the flying school as instructors and build their experience to get the required hours before they are qualified to get the required hours to work in airline industry.
He said the same thing applied to South Africa, in which the pilot needed to have the same number of flying hours.
He said that unfortunately Nigeria did not have the qualified requirements but the airlines on their own might had certain requirements based on their own procedures and manuals.
“The airlines may have the need for a certain experience for their brands of aircraft for insurance purposes before they can employ their pilots.
“From time, the practice has always been that when they finish from school, they will be qualified to fly the type of aircraft that we are flying here.
“So, when they go to look for work, as long as it is the same aircraft brand they get, they will not need additional training.
“But, if it is another brand of aircraft, they have to go for type-training,” he said.
The rector said that it was not possible for the college to provide simulators that would provide training for all the types of aircraft in the industry.
He said this was because simulators were very expensive, adding that they needed to operate them for almost 24 hours for the college to recover the investment.
On the use of expatriate pilots, Mr Abdulsalam said the government’s policy was that as long as a qualified Nigerian was on ground, it would not approve a foreigner to do the job in Nigeria.
The rector, however, explained that if an airline introduced new equipment, there might not be local pilots to operate that equipment then to bridge the gap, the airline have to bring in qualified expatriate to start utilising the aircraft.
“For instance, Air Peace bought a number of Embraer 45 and before then very few Embraer 45 were flying in Nigeria, which meant that very few Nigerians had that type-rating.
“A number of that aircraft were parked because we had no pilots. So, the airline had to bring a number of foreigners from abroad to fly the planes till such a time their own people they were training would be qualified to take over.
“It is a common practice in the industry,” he said.