AIR Namibia pilots preferring anonymity have told The Namibian that the compulsory six-monthly simulation training they undergo in Zurich, Switzerland, is being compromised because the company reportedly has not paid their S&T allowances.
The simulation training is a prerequisite for the renewal of pilots' licences, without which they would be grounded, Air Namibia head of corporate communications Paul Nakawa acknowledged on Monday, saying that it was a serious allegation for anyone to insinuate that Air Namibia cannot send its pilots for such training.
Nakawa said the payment of S&T is an internal matter, and would not expound on the issue any further.
"Whether it is paid or not paid, I fail to comprehend whether a tested journalist would ever devote her/his time on this, unless for sensational purposes. Air Namibia does not discuss matters as these with third parties," Nakawa responded to questions raised by The Namibian.
He added: "Safety, integrity and reliability are some of our core values that we live by and do not compromise on as a national airline. I confirm to you that the pilot obligatory simulator programme is as according to plan and it is essential to our highly trained pilots and the effectiveness of our operations."
Rumours doing the round are that Air Namibia is struggling financially, as the board is now reportedly going back to the drawing board to devise a new business plan after a N$1 billion business plan was already approved by Cabinet.
Some sources have questioned the wisdom of having the simulator training done in Zurich instead of South Africa, which reportedly has similar facilities.
To this, Nakawa said Air Namibia is an international company and its standards in terms of operations are thus supported by reputable International Air Transport Association (IATA) accreditations and IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certifications.
"[It] is part of industrial requirements to maintain the standard. We are not limited neither confined to a particular geographical establishment. Currently there is no simulation facility in South Africa, however plans are underway to create one. Nonetheless, one should always consider quality against price in some training aspects despite all odds. Therefore, still standing on our core values, Air Namibia remains committed to uphold its zero accident record since its inception. Even if there were simulation training in South Africa, we will always compare prices and objectives thereof to ensure value for money and return on the investment," Nakawa said.
He further dashed a claim that Air Namibia is to a large extent using foreign pilots who are on contract. He said there are 23 Namibian and 15 foreign pilots on contract.
Air Namibia has 91 pilots at different levels, of which 76 are Namibians, 10 Germans, two Arabs, one Russian, one South African, and one Spanish, Nakawa said.
Sources have also said due to the airliner's financial woes, Air Namibia has fallen behind on paying staff pension contributions over to the pension administrator, Alexander Forbes.
Air Namibia has reportedly agreed to now pay over a monthly N$500 000 to Alexander Forbes for the N$4 million which is outstanding in pension contributions.
When asked about the pension contributions, Nakawa again stated that the matter is an internal one.
"[Should] there be any unsettled matters with our administrator there are procedures in place to handle such," he said, and repeated that Air Namibia does not discuss its financial matters to third parties.
"Discussions on settlements of accounts are discussed directly with our clients or suppliers," Nakawa said.