10th November 2012
The demands on Tanzania’s aviation have finally led to a wedlock that could have never been imagined in the past. While the National Institute of Transport (NIT) had a long term vision of training aviation as reflected in its logo, it just remained as an illusion for quite a while.
The national flag carrier ATCL (Air Tanzania Company Limited), created as a service-cum-commercial entity, was bestowed with the task of training apart from its services, but this had its own ramification as balancing the two missions had its own challenges. Now this tricky situation could cease soon after the two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) early this month at the ATCL building.
The agreement tells us that they will complement each other, whereby the NIT will deal more with the theoretical aspects, the engineering component, while on the other hand the ATCL will deal more with the practical side, the flying aspect of this training. At the height of the signing function were two CEOs of these two separate institutions but belonging to the same Ministry of Transport; Eng. Dr Zacharia Mganilwa, the Rector NIT, and Capt. Milton Lazaro of the ATCL.
“The NIT has always remained the best institution when it comes to training in transportation. The newly found co-operation with the ATCL will just fill the gaps in aviation which, fortunately enough, we had already identified,” boasted Dr Mganilwa during an exclusive interview. He added that apart from surface, marine and aviation, the NIT is now progressively improving the other side of transportation – pipelines – claiming this is a rare combination to be found in one institution.
“As we see in our logo, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the founding father of Tanzania, had already had these aspects when establishing this institution in 1975, but financial constraints made it difficult to realize them earlier,” he intones, reflectively.
Dr Mganilwa charges that the aviation industry is regulating itself in the business sense, but the security concerns must be controlled given the sensitive nature of the industry. For that matter initiatives must be made well in advance to tackle the balance between business prospects and safety of aviation in this country.
“We must cope with this fast speed. We have realized that within the coming five years Tanzania will need more than 77 pilots and at least 50 aircraft engineers … and 36 aircraft more will be needed to the current 215 plying local and international routes,” he comments.
The two organisations have designed a course which has already been approved by the relevant authorities to cater for the needs of undergraduate and postgraduate specializations in aviation. ATCL Chief Executive Officer Capt. Lazaro says his corporation had gone through many struggles simply because it sought to maintain the long-term vision of its establishment -- to provide service at a minimum cost and not make air travel a luxury of the few well to do.
“We have survived because we are the flag carriers and (an icon of) the national identity through aviation. These core values have helped us survive in the industry regardless the hard challenges that we faced here and there,” he notes.
Happy was Capt. Lazaro that at last that the ‘NIT-ATCL Joint Aviation Training Project’ is now becoming a reality because he believes in teamwork and a collaboration of key players in order to bring efficiency. He hopes that with this new development the aviation industry in Tanzania will realize make fundamental improvements because many youngsters will now be trained in this comparatively expensive and time consuming field.
He challenges other airlines he claims had failed to increase training opportunities to their staff, to instead move to ATCL to ‘hook’ new employees from time to time – arguing he is not in any way annoyed by this trend because, in many ways, it reflects a measure trust in the good work the ATCL was doing in training its crew, hence the ‘hunt’ for new employees from his company.
However, he hints that some of those who are employed by other companies sometimes go back to ATCL anytime something goes amiss there. Dr Mganilwa agrees, saying that out of the 614 pilots registered in Tanzania, 60 percent are foreigners against only 40 locals. This has its repercussions because air travel expenses are high in order to subsidize the costs of hiring foreign pilots. Even at the time of renewing their licences the pilots are forced to go to Soroti in Uganda, or to South Africa, where the incidental expenses in terms of fees, travel and upkeep keep on rising.
The long-term vision of this co-operation is to address these discrepancies so as to ensure that within a short time to come all pilots will be trained in Tanzania from stage one up to the last of their required courses.
Giving a brief on the history of this co-operation was Juma Fimbo, lecturer at the NIT, who says that before the signing of the MoU the two parties had a lot of consultative meetings which eventually led to the approvals by all relevant bodies. Fimbo says all the relevant bodies in dealing with aviation matters were consulted. These include the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) for the duo to get the Approved Training Organization (ATO) Certificate. TCAA is the custodian of aviation matters in Tanzania.
It was established during the joint technical discussions that reduced costs in training on aviation matters would support the Government in two ways. Firstly, it would encourage more youngsters to join the field because currently very few parents can afford to pay fees for their children in this discipline. And secondly, this would facilitate job creation because many Tanzanian youth would be trained, and find a ready-made market for them due to the increased demand of aircrafts and light planes in mining activities, as well as oil and gas exploration and even during their later stages of exploitation.
The NIT-ATCL wedlock is meant to meet these standards and in this way promote other sectors particularly mining, construction, health sector and tourism.
In appreciation of this gesture the government on its part has set aside Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma Airport in the country’s centre, and Kilimanjaro International Airport in the northern tourist circuit for the training purposes.
To support this move, the TCAA plans to solicit US $800,000 million by next year, and about $900, 000 million the following year, ready for the training programme which will save about 80 percent of the costs if the training sessions were to be conducted abroad.
At the ATCL Training Institute were the Principal, Eng. Ahmed Mwinge and Senior Avionics Instructor Khalifa Kiteti, who said the combined efforts of two institutions would make it easier for the trainers to operate considering that theirs was a very tricky area with a lot of demands of experts well versed in this technology.
Kiteti, who grew up from a polytechnic to an engineer from the East African Airways to the current ATCL, sees a lot of prospects in investing more heavily in training because of the increasing demands in aviation due to the fact that the East African countries are more interacted. Today there are five countries in the bloc from the previous three.
He says; “Demands for the pilots are in all the three categories of those with the Private Pilot License (PPL), those with the Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and the last category of Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL).”
The PPL categories demand that the pilot fly for over 100 hours before they get certified, while in the CPL category the demand is more than 250 hours, and the ATPL the demand is more than 400 hours.
In aviation a pilot is always a student because whenever there is a new aircraft, even with the slightest improvements or changes, one will have to undergo training, or when there is a new aircraft with a technology which they are never well accustomed with.
If there are minor changes in the engine as it always occurs in makes like the Dash 100, 200,300 and the like, this will determine the size of the engine which means there is in mechanics of the engine which demands one to become well acquainted with before they are allowed to fly.
“The training of one pilot amounts up to US $60,000 while that of an aircraft engineer amounts up to sterling pounds 10,000. This is indeed a challenge to a country like Tanzania,” notes Kiteti.
The idea of teaming up the two institutions in this venture arose when one of the distinguished experts in civil aviation, Mr Omar Nundu, while serving as Minister of Transport, started to discuss the matter with the NIT which coincidently had a long-term vision on aviation.