Lack of money makes pilots’ training harder to achieve

With other essentials of daily living competing for attention and the high cost of living in Nigeria, some aeronautic students are seeking alternatives to achieving their goals of becoming pilots because of the high fees being charged by training institutions.

Civil aviation is an indispensable aspect of the socio-economic transport infrastructure and its economy at large. Nigeria has numerous airports, heliports, and regulated airstrips. It is also home to 10 domestic airlines.

With such a vibrant aviation industry, there are few aeronautic schools for pilots in Nigeria. Besides, most aviation school graduates find it difficult to get employment.

In some cases, fresh graduates and young pilots are asked to offer certain amounts upfront in order to get employed. It is alleged that some young pilots are asked by airlines to buy their own employment or forget to be absorbed by the company.

Most investors who are into aircraft charter services in Nigeria according to a source prefer to employ expatriates as this helps them save some money in the long run.

Sometimes, if the airline is not capable of training a pilot, they ask him to pay and negotiate his salary based on what he has paid.

“My friend and I grew up with this dream of becoming a pilot. I graduated from the department of Engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I needed N8 Million to train as a pilot in the pilot training school in Zaria but this never happened because my parents could not raise the money. The same happened to my friend. Despite trying several scholarship applications, none worked. Funding killed that dream,” Chidi Udoka told BusinessDay.

Udoka said the same crisis is being faced by many other students in Nigeria.

The official duration of time to train as a pilot is 94 weeks but this depends on some factors, some of which are the instructors and the weather. During Harmattan, students hardly train and this can delay the duration of time they study at the institution.

According to Robert Osuhor, a captain with Emirates Airline, “One of the issues that the aviation industry in Nigeria has failed to address is the issue of funding, even before the Covid-19 pandemic the cost of pilot training is beyond the financial means of the majority of the people.”

Read also: Funding stalls student pilots’ training turnout

Osuhor explained that in some advanced countries such as the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States of America (USA), among others loans are made available to students in order to enable them to actualise their dreams.

“For example, in the UK, you can try and get a career development loan that is backed by the government. In Europe one of the low-cost carriers’ offers is the cadet training scheme but it still requires a sizable financial contribution and in the Middle East there is a similar scheme run by another low-cost carrier,” he said.

He advocated a system where government and corporate organisations collaborate to fund pilot training scholarships, which he believes will boost the economy in the long run.

“What needs to happen is that governments and industry share the costs of pilot training scholarships for aspiring young people. These costs can then be recovered once the candidate starts working. Emirates have this kind of scheme, supported by the government, for the benefit of UAE nationals,” he said.

Osuhor counsels pilot trainees in Nigeria to dream big and do as much research as possible.

“Things change very quickly and you want to be in a position to take advantage of any new initiatives that come up right at the beginning. Remember the path may not always be straightforward, but it is possible with hard work and dedication,” he stated.

Similarly, Chijioke Akpu, a senior first officer on the A380 with Emirates Airline, and a 2006 flying school graduate of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, urged young people who are aiming to become pilots but do not have the resources to work hard and hope for scholarships.

“Keep dreaming and work hard, especially where the resources are limited. I’ll borrow a quote from Seneca, he said “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.

“We, therefore, make our luck. There are scholarship schemes from most state governments and sometimes the airlines sponsor cadets too. But one has to be prepared and ready while you await or seek out the opportunity.

“We, therefore, make our luck. There are scholarship schemes from most state governments and sometimes the airlines sponsor cadets too. But one has to be prepared and ready while you wait or seek out the opportunity,” he stated.

The fee charged varies per course and institution. For a student to complete a standard pilot course in the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), and Dhaewood Aviation Business School (DABS), among others the fee ranges from N7.5million to N8 million.

However, some management courses such as hospitality, flight operations, cargo handling, and ticketing could cost about ₦ 50,000 to about ₦230,000 and even more depending on the time frame (3 months or medium-term course).

“I paid over N500, 000 for a 6 month course on ticketing, and after graduating it was not easy getting a job,” said Glory Usoroh, a former student of the Universal School of Aviation.

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