Rwanda: RwandAir to Cut Costs By Training Pilots at Home

Photo: New Times
Passengers board RwandAir (file photo).

Rwanda's national carrier will start training pilots locally under a joint venture with the Saudi Arabia aviation company, Nexus, in order to help cut costs of training pilots abroad and hiring expatriates.

RwandAir, which is also heavily indebted, has 200 foreign and 35 local pilots, most of whom are trained abroad. Under the new programme, the airline hopes to train 370 more pilots.

The deal was signed last week by the chairman of Nexus Abdullah Al-Sayed and Jules Ndenga of the Aviation Travel and Logistics parastatal. Nexus will own 60 per cent of the school while the government's Akagera Aviation Ltd will hold 40 per cent.

The Nexus Training Academy will offer training in flight and aircraft maintenance, cabin crew, aircraft dispatchers and ground services.

RwandAir aims to train 376 aircraft engineers, 285 aircraft dispatchers, 500 personnel in ground services and 500 cabin crew.

The two parties declined to give details of the investment.

"We are in the initial stages of the venture and cannot discuss or determine the size of the investment to be made. The board will decide in an upcoming meeting the required investment in terms of finances and human resources required to start the process," said Mr Abdullah.

RwandAir has grown its destinations to 28, with the most recent being Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guangzhou in China and Tel Aviv in Israel. The national carrier plans to add two leased A330Neo on top of its 12 aircraft in order to service its expansion.

RwandAir CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo said that as the airline expands its routes and fleet, there will be a need for additional pilots, and training them at home will help cut costs.

"One of the biggest costs we incur is hiring expatriates, so training pilots locally will go a long way in helping the company to grow and make profits," said Ms Makolo.

Last year, RwandAir's debt ceiling of $500 million was breached after it exceeded its borrowing power by $87 million due to the lease for new aircraft, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The airline requested IMF to raise its debt ceiling to $800 million to enable it to open routes in Africa and create longer haul connections to Europe, America and Asia.

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