Aviation Industry Faces Acute Labour Shortage

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Chinedu Eze

The aviation industry is currently contending with acute labour shortage worldwide, industry operators have said. They have therefore warned that unless training and retraining of aviation personnel is increased, in the nearest future airlines may ground flights because of lack of pilots.

In Nigeria, since the past 10 years, domestic airlines have been engaging expatriates as pilots and engineers, but recently, some of them have been engaging scheduling officers, route development officials and others.

The Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, Captain Abdulsalam Mohammed said that the cost of training pilots is high but noted that relatively, the cost of the training at the college is relatively low.

Industry observers argued that the major challenge Nigerian pilots face is type-rating, alleging that Nigerian airlines are reluctant to engage pilots from school to type-rate on their aircraft.

Airlines pay hugely to recruit and retain expatriate pilots and engineers and most often they pay them in dollars, while they earn their revenues in local currency, the naira, which literally digs big holes in their finances.

It is not only pilots that are at short supply, most personnel in the technical areas of aviation is not easy to come by, said KLCC, an industry magazine, which noted that there is paucity of aviation personnel in all the technical areas.

Reports also indicate that aircraft mechanics and flight simulator technicians are also in high demand.

KLCC reported that at Alaska Airlines’ Flight Training Center near Seattle, USA, the organisation is finding it difficult to get instructors for the facility.

“You’ve heard about the pilot retirement wave, but there is also a retirement wave in the flight simulator maintenance field. Even though our numbers aren’t as large as the pilots, the impact might be greater than the pilots because we maintain these machines that the pilots actually train on day in and day out before they go out and fly you safely to your destination,” said one of the instructors at the flight school.