Federation warns over shortage of airline pilots in the region

Africa's youngest pilot 19-year old Besa Mumba from Zambia. PHOTO: COURTESY

A growing shortage of airline pilots in the region is putting the industry’s recent growth at risk, according to International Federation of Airline Pilots (IFALPA), who cited resourcing gaps as the greatest threat to the industry.

The aviation professionals drawn from Africa and the Middle East yesterday said that, as a result, there was urgent need for more pilots to meet the projected growth in the air travel business.

“If we are to meet the sustainable growth potential of this important industry we need to attract and retain future aviators. Going forward, promoting excitement and passion for aviation is not going to be enough,” said IFALPA chairman Ron Abel, right, with  Kenya Airline Pilots Association chairman Murimi Njoroge who called on the aviation industry to facilitate access to high quality careers as a strategy to meet current and future requirements.

Gulf carriers such as Emirates and Qatar airlines continue to pour heavy resources into hiring to meet the growing demand for pilots flying their sophisticated jets – owing to training bottlenecks the multi-billion-dollar air companies face.

Oftentimes, these airlines have exploited on poor pay by their African competitors into luring their best captains with huge perks and better working conditions into flying their big jets – a tactical move that has saved them time and resources in training pilots.

While IATA projects that air passenger travel will double to 7.8 billion within the next 20 years, the Boeing 2018 Pilot and Technician Outlook projects demand for 790,000 pilots over a similar period – double the current workforce and the most significant demand in the outlook’s nine-year history.

The new development is further expected to bring to sharp focus the local carrier, Kenya Airways which begins direct flights to the US next month. The airline has been rocked with several challenges including high attrition rate which has seen most of its pilots flee to gulf carriers for better pay.

Abel was speaking during the annual IFALPA Africa and Middle East 2018 regional meeting and safety seminar in Mombasa.


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