in Training / Features

EAA still giving a helping hand to aviation shortages

Posted 25 August 2017 · Add Comment

The Ethiopian Aviation Academy (EAA) is globally accredited facility aiming to train increasing numbers of vitally important African aviation professionals. Kaleyesus Bekele looks at the story so far.

Ethiopian Airlines has always believed in self-sufficiency, which is why its training centre is as old as the airline itself.
Back in 1951, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Training Center (ECAA) was established with the support of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Later, the centre became the ECAA technical training school, tasked with training aviation maintenance technicians, meteorology specialists, and air traffic controllers.
The school was later named the National Airline Training Project (NATP). It was a joint project by Trans World Airlines (TWA), the US airline that had contractual management agreement with the Ethiopian Government to establish and manage Ethiopian Airlines, ECAA and the US Department of Transport.
NATP was engaged in training aircraft maintenance technicians, pilots and other airline personnel. It added a civilian pilot training programme around 1959.
When the UNDP programme and NATP was discontinued, Ethiopian Airlines had to form its own pilot training centre in 1964. Later, the Aircraft Maintenance Technicians School (MTS) was established.
In 1975, the Ethiopian Training Center was recognised by the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) as the African aviation-training centre for the Anglophone countries. Its name was changed to the Ethiopian Airlines training centre in the 1980s.
Over the years, the centre has evolved through different phases and transformed into its current state – the Ethiopian Aviation Academy (EAA). Today it is one of the largest and most modern facilities in the region.
The EAA is one of the seven business units of the Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Group, with its own vision and mission.
The aviation academy has five different schools – pilot training, aircraft maintenance technicians, cabin crew and catering, leadership and career development, and commercial and ground services. So far, 13,600 students have graduated from EAA, of which more than 12,000 have been Ethiopians and the rest foreign nationals.
The aviation academy’s prime task is to train and supply the required skilled manpower to the national airline. It has also been training airline personnel from various African countries. Ethiopian Airlines pioneered training in Africa. In 1959, the centre took students from three other African nations – five from Uganda, five from Kenya and four from Tanzania.
EAA managing director, Solomon Debebe, said one of the African aviation industry’s daunting challenges was the availability of the required quantity and quality of people. “In addition to catering for its own manpower needs, Ethiopian Airlines has also been contributing to the growth of the African aviation industry from the very beginning,” he added.
Ethiopian Airlines has been growing fast in the past 10 years and meeting the demand for human capital is a challenge. In 2011, the airline launched a 15-year development strategy dubbed Vision 2025 that propelled its growth to the next level. Human resource development is one of the four pillars of Vision 2025 that has transformed the airline into a leading African aviation group.
With the acquisition of a large number of new, modern aircraft, the airline was in need of pilots, technicians and cabin crew. It was even compelled to hire foreign pilots.
In a bid to meet the growing demand and grow its third-party business, Ethiopian’s management decided to invest heavily in its aviation academy.
Debebe, a product of the academy himself, graduating in 1979, said management decided to expand the academy with the view to providing manpower, not only to Ethiopian airlines but also to other African countries.
In 2014-2015 the airline spent more than $100 million to build modern buildings for the aviation academy, purchase equipment like the cabin mock-up, trainer aircraft, different flight training devices and flight simulators. Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, inaugurated the academy’s expansion project in February 2016.
The academy boosted its annual intake capacity to 1,000 trainee pilots, technicians and cabin crew. “Currently, we have close to 700 trainees studying different disciplines because we graduated 400 trainees in April 2017,” said Debebe.
According to the managing director, Ethiopian Airlines needs 500 pilots annually but the academy can manage just 200. “The pilot training school is doing its level best to cater the airline’s demands but we have a number of constraints,” he lamented.
The academy has 24 trainer aircraft, a mix of Cessna and Diamond aircraft. “We have full glass cockpit Diamond 40 and 42 trainer aircraft. They are very modern and technologically advanced. The avionic system is very sophisticated,” Debebe said.
The flight school also has three full-motion flight simulators for Diamond aircraft and two for Cessnas. Ethiopian Airlines Flight Operations has flight simulators for the Q400, B737, B757-767, B787 and B777 aircraft. It will soon acquire an Airbus A350 simulator. The aviation academy is tasked with the responsibility of selling the flight simulator capacity.
“Shortage of supply of highly qualified instructors is a big problem,” explained Debebe.
“We take aviation academy graduates and, with further training programmes, we make them qualified instructors. Until we have an adequate number of instructors we have temporarily suspended admitting foreign cadets. We have to first satisfy the airline’s demands for new pilots.
“However, we are handling line training, type rating and things like that so that we keep in touch with our customers,” he added.
The academy is working to solve the instructor shortage and resume admitting foreign cadets as of next year.
In 2011 the pilot training school, in partnership with Flight Path International of Canada, launched the multi-crew pilot-licensing (MPL) programme. “Compared to the commercial pilot licensing (CPL) programme, this is more competency-based and airline oriented,” said Debebe. The MPL is very simulator dominated and targets a certain type of aircraft. “It is cost-effective. With the CPL you have 140 hours of flight training whereas, with the MPL, you have less than 90 hours. It is about 14-16 months as opposed to 18-20 months for the CPL training.”
Ethiopian Airlines pioneered its MPL program in Africa. To date 300 cadets have been trained with the MPL at EAA.
The other challenge the flight school facing is runway congestion at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, where the academy is located. The airport has only one runway so cadets cannot take off or land between 07am and 11am.
The academy is now in the process of building a new pilot training school in Hawassa Airport, one of the regional towns located 275km south of Addis Ababa. “We have already secured a plot of land in the airport from the Ethiopian Airports Authority. The new flight school will have its own runway, dormitories, canteen and all other required facilities,” Debebe said.
“The big challenge will be to aggressively promote and sell our additional capacity. To that end, there is a department – sales and business development – tasked with marketing the academy.
“Ethiopian Airlines is now better positioned to address Africa’s growing demand for airline personnel. The task ahead is to communicate what we have and to be competitive.”
As part of its endeavour, EAA has a plan to branch out to other African nations. Currently, the academy is aiming to build an aviation academy for Francophone countries in west Africa.
Senior Ethiopian Airlines executives are in discussions with the Government of Togo about the possibility that Ethiopian and Asky Airlines could jointly build an aviation academy in Lome. Ethiopian has a 40% stake on Asky, a Lome-based private airline.
EAA is aiming to generate an annual revenue of $78.9 million with an annual intake capacity of 4,000 trainees by 2025.
 

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