26 November 2012

Tanzania: Legal Centre Mulls Suing Airlines

FOREIGN managed local airlines and Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) may soon have their day in a court of law when Legal and the Human Rights Centre files a case to defend local professional pilots against mistreatment.

LHRC Executive Director Hellen Kijo Bisimba told the 'Daily News' at the weekend that their team of lawyers is currently studying the matter filed by Professional Association of Tanzanian Pilots (PATP) who are complaining about systematic segregation in employment by managers of foreign private airlines.

"If we think that the case is credible then we will pursue it in court to ensure that there is fair play," Dr Bisimba said. She said that PATP presented the case to LHRC after Tanzania Air Operators Association (TAOA) and TCAA refused to cooperate with them in releasing key information relating to how many local and foreign pilots are currently at work in the country.

Bisimba pointed out that prior to the decision on whether the case should go to court, LHRC will next Wednesday feature PATP leaders on a live television programme that the centre sponsors at Channel Ten. "We think this is an important issue which the public should know.

This being the case, it will be aired on our television programme next week," the LHRC Executive Director noted. PATP Secretary General, Captain Khalil Iqbal, accused TCAA of colluding with TAOA in denying their association vital information relating to the number of pilots who are at work in the country and which of them are locals.

"We went to TCAA to get a list of the pilots flying commercial planes and also students but they denied us saying it's only accessible by employers," Capt Iqbal said. He added that they have already presented the case to LHRC who are contemplating the next move.

He argued that there exists a strange relationship between TCAA and TAOA which disadvantages local professional pilots, many of whom are not employed because foreigners dominate the local market. "We want to put an end to this anomaly which has prevailed for a long time because of regulatory lapses," Capt Iqbal pointed out while dismissing much of the information contained in a widely circulated press from TAOA which was released last week.

Both TCAA and TAOA have dismissed PATP arguments saying local pilots lack requisite qualifications and discipline and are, hence, not qualified to fly commercial jets.

"Most of our pilots have less than 300 flying hours which are required to fly passenger planes. We are working with airlines to address this problem," said TCAA Director General, Fadhili Manongi. In the statement, TAOA Executive Secretary Laurence Miku dismissed much of the PATP allegations saying that "they don't have a figment of the truth."

"PATP should forward the names of the foreign pilots they claim are flying without licences to the TCAA as this is a very serious allegation or publish them if they feel TCAA is colluding in this practice. "Tanzania has one of the best aviation safety records in Africa and we all want to keep it.

We can only do so by ensuring that all the pilots flying our fleet have the requisite licences and experience and not otherwise," Mr Miku argued. He added that the country has insufficient qualified pilots to fly commercial jets. Consequently, airlines are forced to hire pilots of any nationality.

"Operators should not be forced to employ pilots of any given nationality as that means the worst Tanzanian pilot will be flying passengers around and will probably end up killing some. "Operators would prefer to employ local pilots as they do not need work permits etc and thus are cheaper to employ, that means more profit for the company and that is what they all want."

In the press statement, TAOA said there are 183 local pilots at work today of which 93 are Airline Transport Pilot's Licence holders while 90 are Commercial Pilot's Licence holders. In contrast, there are 237 foreign pilots flying in the local market of which 43 hold ATPL and 194 are CPL holders which translates into 43.6 per cent local pilots and 56.4 per cent foreigners.

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