The Chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt Nogie Megisson had several months ago, declared that there were over 300 unemployed young pilots in the country. This was due largely to dearth of economically healthy local commercial airlines.
The Rector of Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, Capt. Abdulsalami Mohammed however explains that the inability of most fresh pilots from flying school to gather the requisite flight hours that qualifies them for commercial scheduled airlines’ employment, goes beyond the status of commercial airline business in the country.
“As you know, we have about 300 unemployed young pilots in the market. I keep saying that our young pilots need to get involved in general aviation. The practice worldwide is that when you graduate from a flying school such as NCAT with about 250/300 flight time on a light aircraft, you go into general aviation. Some of them stay on with the flying school to gain experience and build flight time. That was how I started. Some go into general aviation and fly light and medium aircraft to gain experience before they eventually qualify to go for Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) before they join commercial airlines. This is the practice in the US and elsewhere. Unfortunately for us, every pilot that comes out wants to go and fly big jets. It is more glamorous to fly passenger jets but the airlines cannot absorb everybody. I believe the key to this problem is improving our general aviation. If you count the number of private jets we have in Nigeria; if they can employ on each private jet, at least one of these unemployed pilots at a given time, that will create jobs. On the average for normal operations for a light user, they have four pilots or three; two working and one on leave. Multiply that by the number of pilots. That is a lot,” explained Mohammed.
He adds that “it is the best training ground for them. It is more difficult to work on a private aircraft than it is to work on a commercial aircraft because when working on a private aircraft, you are a one man show. You are the pilot and the dispatcher. You fuel the aircraft yourself. You are the accountant. But in an airline, you have people who do all these for you. So, it’s a good training ground for them. My opinion is that this sector should open up to these young men and absorb them and when they gain the experience, they can join the airlines.”
Mohammed equally makes case for the establishment of a national carrier which he says will help the young pilots.