Nige­ria’s Green Africa Air­ways Names Man­age­ment Team

THISDAY - - NEWS -

Nige­rian startup Green Africa Air­ways has ap­pointed Caribbean Air­lines VP­op­er­a­tions Jag Singh as COO and for­mer JetBlue Air­ways VP- flight op­er­a­tions Bart Roberts as safety review board chair­man.

La­gos-based Green Africa Air­ways also said it has se­cured its air trans­port li­cense and is work­ing to­ward its air op­er­a­tor’s cer­tifi­cate.

The air­line ini­tially plans to op­er­ate flights within Nige­ria us­ing leased mid­sized jets.

An­nounc­ing the ap­point­ments, Green Africa Air­ways de­scribed Singh as “a se­nior in­dus­try leader with over 35 years of ex­pe­ri­ence,” as well as serv­ing as Caribbean Air­lines VP-op­er­a­tions, Singh has twice held the role of Caribbean Air­lines act­ing CEO in 2013-14 and 2016-17.

Roberts, who was named as Green Africa Air­ways safety review board chair­man, also has more than 30 years’ avi­a­tion ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing man­age­ment roles at New York- based JetBlue Air­ways, Dal­las/ Fort Worth- based Amer­i­can Air­lines— as chief pi­lot— and with the US Navy.

Green Africa Air­ways is led by CEO and founder Babawande Afo­labi, a for­mer in­vest­ment banker for Mor­gan Stan­ley who started work on the new car­rier in 2014.

Vi­vaColom­bia founder and for­mer CEO Wil­liam Shaw is on Green Africa’s board and for­mer Amer­i­can Air­lines CCO Vi­rasb Vahidi is work­ing on the project as a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive ad­vi­sor.

ASKY Air­lines Boe­ing 737 cap­tain Folu Oladipo, who was pre­vi­ously tech­ni­cal pi­lot at Nige­ria’s largest car­rier Arik Air, is Green Africa’s chief pi­lot.

For­mer Aero Con­trac­tors chief pi­lot Anse­lem Oko­jie was orig­i­nally named as Green Africa’s di­rec­tor of flight op­er­a­tions, but he left in the be­gin­ning of May be­cause of an un­ex­pected change in his per­sonal sit­u­a­tion.

At dif­fer­ent for a, in­dus­try stake­hold­ers have ex­pressed con­cerns about the un­em­ploy­ment of about 500 in­dige­nous pi­lots, whereas Nige­rian air­lines em­ploy ex­pa­tri­ate pi­lots and pay them huge emol­u­ments, in­clud­ing out­ra­geous hol­i­day al­lowances.

Also, Nige­rian air­lines and other avi­a­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions em­ploy ex­pa­tri­ate en­gi­neers, tech­ni­cal ad­vis­ers, flight sched­ulers, cabin crew man­agers, com­mer­cial di­rec­tors and even air­line fi­nan­cial man­agers.

THIS­DAY spoke to in­dus­try op­er­a­tives, who ex­plained that the rea­son why many in­dige­nous pi­lots are un­em­ployed and Nige­rian air­lines rely on ex­pa­tri­ate hands is be­cause the lo­cals are not ex­posed to the req­ui­site ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise af­ter train­ing.

The op­er­a­tives said that the Nige­rian sys­tem lack con­sis­tent plat­form for fur­ther train­ing af­ter the ini­tial train­ing from the Nige­rian Col­lege of Avi­a­tion Tech­nol­ogy (NCAT), Zaria, the In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion Col­lege, Ilorin and other avi­a­tion train­ing schools in the coun­try.

This break in the chain of train­ing that gave rise to lack of req­ui­site ex­pe­ri­ence among Nige­rian pi­lots and en­gi­neers, in­dus­try ex­perts said, is cost­ing Nige­ria huge re­sources in foreign ex­change and has given boost to cap­i­tal flight from the avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

THIS­DAY also spoke to air­line man­agers, who said they pre­fer en­gag­ing in­dige­nous per­son­nel to em­ploy­ing for­eign­ers but the chal­lenge they have is that there are not enough lo­cal pi­lots and en­gi­neers that have the needed ex­pe­ri­ence. Air­lines pay more than dou­ble what they would pay a Nige­rian pi­lot to en­gage an ex­pa­tri­ate. The air­line in ad­di­tion will pay for the foreign pi­lot’s flight ticket busi­ness class any­time he trav­els, pay for his ac­com­mo­da­tion in Nige­ria, pay for his se­cu­rity and also may re­ceive only six months of his ser­vice in a year, as he would use the rest of the year for va­ca­tion over­seas. Re­cently, many Nige­rian car­ri­ers have be­come averse to en­gag­ing ex­pa­tri­ate pi­lots and other tech­ni­cal per­son­nel but they seem to have no im­me­di­ate al­ter­na­tive; ex­cept they en­gage on a train­ing pro­gramme to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity for fur­ther train­ing of Nige­rian tech­ni­cal per­son­nel at a huge cost and fear that af­ter train­ing the pi­lot may de­cide to move to an­other air­line lo­cally or over­seas.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer (CEO) of Aero Con­trac­tors, who is also for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief Flight Of­fi­cer of Arik Air, Cap­tain Ado Sanusi also spoke on the dilemma of both the young Nige­rian pi­lots and en­gi­neers and the Nige­rian air­lines over man­power de­vel­op­ment and em­ploy­ment in the coun­try’s avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

He ex­plained: “The prob­lem when you have ex­pa­tri­ates is that they have the ex­per­tise; that is why you call them ex­pa­tri­ates, so you are bring­ing in ex­perts. You are not bring­ing in peo­ple fresh from school that have no ex­pe­ri­ence; you are bring­ing peo­ple that are ex­pe­ri­enced; that have the ex­per­tise to come and fill the gaps for you. While the ex­pert is there, it is ex­pected that the lo­cals would be get­ting ex­pe­ri­ence and get­ting the ex­per­tise to take over. This is how the full sys­tem works and that is how it could be a sus­tain­able way of de­vel­op­ing hu­man ca­pac­ity.

“But when you have a break in this chain then it be­comes a big prob­lem. That is a sit­u­a­tion whereby there is no con­ti­nu­ity in the train­ing chain. There won’t be any­body tak­ing those who have freshly grad­u­ated to train them fur­ther and give them the needed ex­pe­ri­ence.”

He ac­knowl­edged that there are young pi­lots that have grad­u­ated from school and they don’t still have a job and then Nige­rian air­lines still en­gage ex­pa­tri­ates that are fly­ing.

“Yes, we have ex­pa­tri­ates that are fly­ing in Nige­ria but I can guar­an­tee you that no op­er­a­tor will en­gage a pi­lot, fresh from school to come and fly. They al­ways em­ploy peo­ple that have ex­pe­ri­ence and the ex­per­tise. So in Nige­ria the hu­man ca­pac­ity de­vel­op­ment does not have con­ti­nu­ity. When we do the ba­sic train­ing, we are sup­posed to feed that work­force into the in­dus­try, where there will now go in and start gath­er­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and do what they are sup­posed to do until they gain ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Sanusi prof­fered solutions to this prob­lem, sug­gest­ing that gov­ern­ment should give Nige­rian air­lines in­cen­tives to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity train­ing for Nige­rian pi­lots, en­gi­neers and other tech­ni­cal per­son­nel in the avi­a­tion sec­tor.

“I have been ad­vo­cat­ing for gov­ern­ment to give in­cen­tives to air­lines. If an air­line ab­sorbs 10 Nige­rian pi­lots and you can show that you have trained them, gov­ern­ment should give the air­line tax breaks; you give them tax hol­i­days or you give them some­thing that will en­cour­age them to ab­sorb the pi­lots. This will make the air­lines go the ex­tra mile to en­sure they ab­sorb the trained in­dige­nous per­son­nel. This is be­cause it is quite ex­pen­sive to ab­sorb these pi­lots.”

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