AVIATION industry experts warn that Namibia will have to rely on foreign pilots, after the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) discontinued funding for new trainees for the next three years.
NSFAF acting head Kennedy Kandume explained recently that this change was prompted by the amounts charged and conditions of aviation training.
He says NSFAF spends more than N$5,5 million per year or N$67 000 per student on aviation training.
Meanwhile, Signa Aviation Services managing director Francois Hugo is very concerned about this discontinuation of funding for new aviation trainees.
“Without continued support from the government and NSFAF, we will not have as bright a future in aviation as we could have,” he says.
He stresses that the country’s aviation industry is already experiencing a severe shortage of young and upcoming Namibians looking to enter the industry because of the training costs involved. “As an organisation, we have been relying on funding from NSFAF in order to continue our business. At the moment we have around 40 students funded by NSFAF that represent a significant number of future pilots and cabin crew that will enter the market.”
Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Namibia, the industry has mainly relied on private business, from private industries, Hugo says.
“I think the private institutions are stepping into the functions of the government and NSFAF, because they see the need to continue business aviation and continue to employ young Namibians in the aviation industry. We hope that private aviation companies like FlyNamibia will extend support to young Namibians in order to sustain the aviation industry,” Hugo says.
He adds that the aviation industry in general will make the local industry more reliant on foreign skill sets that will be required to be brought in.
“The industry will now be forced to depend on foreign skill sets because of the lack of local skills,” he adds.
Namibians who are aspiring pilots now have to turn to banking institutions for funding, he says.
“There is a significant problem especially in most neighbouring countries’ aviation, however, we need to continue funding this industry to provide for this industry,” he highlights.
Westair Aviation CEO Henri van Schalkwyk says the shortage of pilots in Namibia will remain a long-term issue.
“It will be negative for the development of the industry and there is a need for experienced engineers,” he says.
Van Schalkwyk says there are local pilots that are starting with their careers and willing to fly single engine turboprops and twin engined propeller aircraft and have been trained to fly locally.
“We have about 70% Namibian pilots but as we grow and become bigger, the shortage does cause this gap to increase as we are not able to find new Namibian pilots,” says Van Schalkwyk.
A number of the company’s top management were funded by NSFAF, including their account manager, chief pilot, flight operations manager and ground operations manager.
“Such programmes have worked in the past and we are reaping the benefits now.
Other than that there are no other funding options that we are aware of,” Van Schalkwyk adds. FlyNamibia has a bursary scheme they offer to future aviators.