- Pilot training schools could generate significant foreign currency
The charter flights service provider, Abyssinian Flight Services and Aviation Academy, has acquired three aircraft.
The private airline recently brought two light aircraft and one chopper. Amare Gebrehana (Capt.), deputy managing director of Abyssinian Flight Services and Aviation Academy, told The Reporter that the company bought one Cessna 172 trainer aircraft for USD 300,000 for the aviation academy. The Abyssinian Aviation Academy, which was established in 2007, now has a total of ten trainer aircraft – six Cessna 172, two Diamond DA40, and two Diamond 42. The flight school also has a flight simulation training device.
Amare said Abyssinian Flight Services brought a Cessna Caravan that has 12 seats for charter flight operations. Abyssinian Flight Services, which was established by Solomon Gizaw (Capt.) in 1999, has been providing charter flight services in Ethiopia and neighboring countries. The company operates six Cessna Caravan aircraft.
Amare told The Reporter that the company imported a chopper, Bell407, with a lease purchase agreement. The chopper has five seats. “The helicopter can provide air transport services for oil and gas exploration companies, UN agencies, construction firms and tourists. It can also engage in medical evacuation operations,” Amare said.
Currently, Abyssinian Flight Services and Aviation Academy operates a total of 16 airplanes and one helicopter. According to Amare, general aviation in Ethiopia could contribute a lot to the economic development of the country. “We get little recognition and support from the government,” Amare said.
The general aviation seems to have several challenges. “Number one we do not have a dedicated airport for general aviation. All the big commercial airplanes and light aircraft of the general aviation use in the same airport – Addis Ababa Bole International Airport –which is now congested. The Ethiopian Airports Enterprise tells us to go regional airports but our business is here,” Amare said.
Abyssinian Aviation Academy was recently forced to move its flight training to Jimma Airport due to congestion Bole. “Secondly we are not allowed to build our own maintenance hangar at Bole so every year we send our fleet to Nairobi for maintenance and spend a huge sum of money in foreign currency. We could have saved this hard currency.”
According to Amare, the other major challenge charter flights operators face is securing flight permits from the Ministry of Defence. “We have to notify the Ministry of every charter flight 24 hours prior to departure and secure flight permit. Our customers need charter flights because they are in a hurry. They call you in the morning to book a charter flight for the afternoon. But we need 24 hour to process our permit. We understand that we have to get permits (security clearances) to fly to some areas but why do we have to get a permit to fly to Hawassa, Jimma or Dire Dawa. This is affecting our operations,” he said.
Amare said that the general aviation was hoping for a better day when the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) drafted a National Aviation Policy which was believed to encourage private investment in the aviation industry. But that did not happen so far as the draft aviation policy has not been endorsed by the Council of Ministers. “We were talking about the national aviation policy for the past three or four years but now we do not know its whereabouts,” Amare said.
In a related news Abyssinian Aviation Academy graduated 41 pilots at a graduation ceremony held on November 19 at Intercontinental Hotel. 17 of the graduates secured Commercial Pilot License (CPL), 23 of them Private Pilot License (PPL) and one of them is an instructor pilot. The graduates are from Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Gabon, Libya, Syria, India and Yemen.
The sixth batch of graduates are the largest in number for the school. In his key note address, Solomon said that the shortage of pilots reached a critical stage at the global aviation industry. According to Boeing’s recent forecast, the world needs 637,000 new pilots in the next 20 years. “If we, as a nation, could train only three percent of these pilots we can generate USD 1.4 billion or 33 billion birr,” he said.
Solomon said that pilot training has an immense business opportunity that Ethiopia should explore. “With ardent support from the government the pilot training schools in Ethiopia could generate a significant amount of foreign currency for the country,” he said.
Since its inception in 2007, the Abyssinian Aviation Academy has graduated 138 pilots pooled from 13 countries.
There are three flight schools operating in Ethiopia – Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Academy, Abyssinian Aviation Academy and East African Aviation Pilot Training School.