12 November 2012

Tanzania: Precision Air Boss Clears Air On Foreign Pilots Saga

Photo: MONUC
Tanzanian pilots have claimed they are discriminated against in favor of foreign workers.

THE Precision Air Chief Executive Officer, Alfonse Kioko has challenged idle local professional pilots, who can fly ATR or Boeing aircrafts and have clean records, to present themselves for possible immediate recruitment.

He made the move while responding to a recent call by 23 unemployed local professional pilots, who are members of Professional Association of Tanzanian Pilots (PATP), to Transport Minister, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe to rescue the industry from foreign domination.

The PATP Secretary General, Khalil Iqbal, told journalists that employment in the aviation industry which is dominated by Precision Air, is skewed in foreign pilots direction while locals stand and watch from the sidelines.

"Some of these pilots who are complaining left our company very unprofessionally by issuing a 24-hour notices and sometimes abandoning our planes," said Mr Kioko who argued that most of the complaining pilots left the country for Nigeria and India in search of greener pastures. Kioko said Precision Air is concerned about recruiting disciplined qualified local pilots who abide by civil aviation industry's regulations, but denounced a few indisciplined local pilots who have failed to achieve their goals abroad in India and Nigeria.

"Some of these pilots left for India to join King Fisher airline which has since collapsed and they are back in the country looking for jobs," he noted, warning that politics should not have a place in the sensitive aviation industry. Indian-based Kingfisher Airlines Ltd stopped flying because of debts and insolvency. The unprofitable airline halted operations last month after failing to pay wages because of an 86 billion rupee debt pile.

Mr Iqbal blamed Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority for failing to check against influx of foreign pilots, some of which have no requisite qualifications. "Foreign investors are making key decisions including who to employ and in terms contrary to regulations," Iqbal noted. He also pointed an accusing finger at the Ministry of Labour and Employment and Department of Immigration for laxity and corruption in granting foreign pilots permits.

But TCAA Director General, Fadhili Manongi distanced his authority against the allegations, saying they are not responsible for recruitment and issuance of work permits. Mr Manongi argued that TCAA only issues licences to pilots who qualify as per regulations. Manongi concurred with Kioko that most local pilots have no skills of flying some aircrafts, but also lack requisite minimum flying hours of 300 to meet demands of foreign aviation companies.

The TCAA chief said the country is facing serious shortage of pilots and aeronautical engineers since the government's decision to pull out from funding civil aviation students.

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