Almost no country is totally self-sufficient and has no need for skill support in specific fields. This is evident in specialised field of expertise such as medicine, marine, mining and also in the aviation industry. The aviation sector facilitates tourism, business, trade and logistics. Namibia’s development goals has logistics as one of the driving forces of Namibia’s Development Plan (NDP5) and therefore its economy, to ensure that Namibia becomes the logistical hub for SADC and Africa.
Air Namibia, the national airline has been expanding its operations, enabling smooth connectivity between the Land of the Brave and the world. The national carrier believes in growth at home and thus has taken deliberate effort to invest and capacitate its own people with the much-needed skills to fly the national assets.
Previously, Air Namibia had very few local pilots accounting for less than 10 percent only and all male pilots. Today, we are happy to announce that so far more than 90 percent of the pilots in our employment are local pilots trained by Air Namibia. The airline spends closed to 30 million Namibian dollars every year to train its own local pilots. We also managed to train over 40 percent pilots from previously disadvantaged backgrounds and over 20 female pilots. This is a great milestone worth celebrating and focusing on.
Air Namibia operates a fleet of one of the world’s best aircraft in terms of reliability, comfort and safety. However, pilots for the types of aircraft utilized by Air Namibia are not easily found in Africa, although that is slowly changing. Rules and regulations around pilots, their flying times, their licensing and so forth are extremely rigid and need to be adhered to at all times, simply from a compliance and safety point of view. This means that there needs to be a sizeable contingent of pilots for Air Namibia to choose from. In the meantime, when the demand arises, Air Namibia places vacancy adverts locally and internationally via recruitment agencies, since internal processes and policies restrict us to directly employ individual pilots. Foreign pilots are employed on an ad-hoc basis, for a period of six (6) months renewable, until we find a local pilot to fill that position. On the other hand, safety is at the heart of Air Namibia’s operations, and the airline will continue doing everything in its power to maintain its clean safety record.
The selection and recruitment process for pilots is rigorous as it is highly regulated by the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and from Air Namibia being a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). As a result of the costs involved in recruiting pilots, the company has career path strategies for cockpit employees which are aimed at retaining this rare specialty skill.
The entry level for pilots in Air Namibia is as First Officers on the Embraer Jet aircraft (ERJ), then they are promoted to First Officers on the Airbus (A319) subject to meeting certain requirements, after which they are promoted to being First Officers on the Airbus (A330). They then return to the entry level fleet (ERJ) as Captains and eventually, they become Captains on the A319 and A330 fleet.
As a country, we find ourselves facing a shortage of pilots, let alone skilled or type rated pilots. Air Namibia is committed to train more pilots to promote local skills. With the expansion of the company due to air travel growth and demand in Africa, Air Namibia shall train and also hire more foreign pilots until such time that the demand has been zeroed.
Air Namibia therefore encourages Namibians to pursue special skills in the aviation industry, as there are opportunities for growth. If there are local pilots out there having A319 or A330 licenses, why not come and fly for the nation’s carrier.
Paul Homateni Nakawa is the Manager for Corporate Communications at Air Namibia.