Stories by Chinelo Obogo [email protected] 07064781119
Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) certified as a Regional Training Centre of Excellence (RTCE) by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), has for 58 years trained pilots, aircraft engineers, air traffic controllers and those who run the aviation sector.
However, despite being an ICAO -Approved Training Organisation (ATO) and adjudged the best aviation institute in West Africa, the school’s rector, Capt. Alkali Modibbo, says funding has remained major challenge and said his administration is open to partnering with the private sector to solve this problem.
He also revealed among other topical issues that the school has 20 serviceable aircraft and says, though it is enough to train students at any given time, they would be taking delivery of more airplanes in February and April this year.
This is an Approved Training Organisation (ATO) and we have been having renewals yearly and the Regional Training Centre of Excellence (RTCE) is a certification by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The benefits of this certification is that we can increase training activities like the ICAO training courses, conventional courses in the college. In 2021, we had over 50 courses conducted in this college in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and we are still doing those courses. That will give us more visibility internationally and locally by having the RTCE. You cannot train if you don’t have the re- viewer of the ATO. So, these are the benefits of the RTCE and ATO.
We have Diamonds, Tampicos and Beech Baron 58 trainer aircraft and we are looking at getting more Diamond aircraft; seven of the Diamond aircraft were supplied in 2020 and this year, we will be taking delivery of two of the Diamond aircraft – double and single engine. At a given time, you have at least five to six serviceable airplanes. Presently, we have about 20 serviceable aircraft at the college, but whatever we have are enough to train students at any given time.
Like I said earlier, we intend to take delivery of more airplanes this year. We will take one in February and another in April. The Diamonds will be about 15 in all. They are advanced cockpit; we have the latest technology that you can find in any machine and it uses Jet A1, which is cheaper than the Aviation Gas (AvGas). Aviation gas is not easy to come by, we have to import it into Nigeria and that is what the Tampicos are using.
It gladdens me to tell you that we are moving another step higher. We are thinking of getting Magnus, which is another airplane that is manufactured in Hungary. We have been to their factory with NCAA and the Ministry of Aviation. We conducted our technical inspection; sooner or later, we will start to have those machines here.
The advantages of that machine are: one, it is made from carbon fibre, it is very light and it uses Premium Motoring Spirit (PMS) like the one you use in your car. So, from AvGas, we went down to Jet A1 and we are also going into PMS. It is going to be less expensive to run with that aircraft.
Something unique about that aircraft is that it has a parachute of its own. If you lose an engine, there is a parachute that you will pull and the engine will come out and the pilot will be able to land the aircraft with that parachute. With this, you have saved a life and the equipment. The parachute is there for you in case you lose an engine and the aircraft has only one engine.
Deploying new fire simulator
Our firefighting simulator is undergoing process of certification; we are in stage two of the process. NCAA is responsible for issuing certification for the equipment and it cannot give you the certificate until you are through with all the processes, which we are working hard on to get. As soon as the second phase is completed, the machine would be put to use.
The firefighting tender (E1) we have is one of the best equipment you can find anywhere. It is so big that the fence and access road are giving more challenges for it to be used at that place. So, we are coming out with another provision of a smaller fire tender. Also, the electricity at that part of the college is being worked on. We are going to take electricity from the completed simulator Boeing 737 aircraft and we will deliver it to the firefighting simulator side. I think we are almost done with that.
We do have challenges here, but the most pressing issue is funding. The funds are not sufficient for our day-to-day running and the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is also inadequate. So, we try to see if we can get more IGRs to carry out our mandates and expend them on our facilities and hostels.
I went out myself to see the state of the hostels and I called the Minister of Aviation myself . I said to him that the room he stayed when he was doing his engineering; the same building, room and toilet are still in existence. Some are 30 years old, but we are working hard to ensure that we renovate the ones that we can and then build new ones.
There is an executive hostel near the rector’s house, a contract has been given and the contractor is working to complete the hostel, which will be a very good one to our students when they come for training. Also, the contract to renovate the AA Hostel has been approved by the ministry and we will soon start working on it.
Also, I must tell you that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved 150 new hostel rooms in the budget and another one will be coming in the next budget, which is for 100 rooms. So, we are working towards getting good and better accommodation for all our students.
We will always partner with organisations in order to move forward. We are members of the International African Association for Approved Training Organisations (AAATO) and other international associations. Also, we partner with all the agencies under the ministry, military, paramilitary organisations and others. We partner with them and we also send our people to these organisations to be trained on some of their technologies. We also work hand in hand with airlines. Every airline and organisation that has anything to do with aviation come here and get trained. We also send out people out to get more knowledge and information. On partner- ship with the agencies, they are our number one customers. Some of those courses they were sending their staff to do outside the country are now being done here at NCAT.
The only way pilots or engineers can get more jobs is when we have more airlines and they can also work in the agencies and the ministry. It is not compulsory that you must fly or repair an airplane. You can work in any of the agencies as a pilot.
Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is a pilot, the immediate past Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, was a pilot and same applies to Capt. Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Organisation (NCAA). Also, the current Commissioner of Accident Investigation Bureau, Akin Olateru, is a pilot and several others.
So, jobs are out there, pilots and engineers should not limit themselves to only flying or repairing of aircraft. The aim of every pilot is to fly, but when jobs don’t come, you can work in any of the agencies or the Ministry of Aviation. We look forward to the Federal Government’s opening more opportunities to aviators. Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, has the love of aviators in his heart and he has been doing great things to ensure that the aviation industry moves to the next level.
The issue of insecurity is a nationwide issue and I am sure that that there is no nation, community and an environment, which doesn’t face this challenge. The country is going through some challenges, which governments at all levels are working hard to address. At NCAT, we have formidable security equipment and gadgets which are installed everywhere. If you walk into this college, someone is seeing you going and coming. We have advanced security gadgets in every nook and cranny of this college for 365 days a year.
Also, we have armed policemen, civil defence officers and we have our own internal security personnel who help them to ensure total security is maintained. However, people that want to commit havoc are not sleeping and we also are not sleep- ing. We will continue to improve on our security discretion and day-to-day arrangement.
On the issue of COVID-19, we have been coping with it by following the protocols laid down by the Federal Government, NCAA and the World Health Organisation (W.H.O). Although, we know that we have very limited cases of COVID-19, but Nigeria and other countries have been mandated to make sure they follow all the protocols. We cannot take it for granted and let down our guards. We have to keep on obeying the protocols until the pandemic is over. Even with the protocols, there are a limited number of students you can have in a class at a go. But I want to tell you that we are doing very well with that.
This college is about 58 years old and the college was here before the illegal occupants became the residents of that area. If you encroach on a land, the government has the right to take it back. We are trying to secure that area by building a perimeter fence to cover the land that we recovered and we have armed security personnel patrolling that area to keep people away from coming back to restart construction of building or farming.
For those who want to go to the court or are already in the court, it is left for the court to decide on the issue. We have some cases brought to us, which we have forwarded to the Ministry of Aviation because it has a legal department that is in charge of taking court cases against it or its agencies to the right places. We will only be there as observers and give some advice whenever it is required.
We are going to try as much as possible to conduct more training locally and internationally and we intend to get the certification of the automatic rescue firefighting training provider certificate from the NCAA, which I told you about. Also, we are working on the B737 equipment certification. It is taking us longer than we intended, but we will trying all our best to ensure that by March this year or April, we will have the B737 simulator equipment and put it to use. You need to have the international accredit certification before NCAA will now give you its own certification. For an example, you must have the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or EASA certification and NCAA based on one of those certifications, will now issue you its own certificate. We are also looking for to be an Approved Maintenance Organisation (AMO). We started last year, but we put it on hold and we intend to continue. Hopefully, we will get the AMO certification this year.
Presently, we have about six foreign students and now, students from Niamey, Niger are coming to the school very soon. But, it is expensive for students outside Nigeria to enroll in this college. When you want to be a pilot, you will need about $50,000, but for Nigerians, we have serious subsidy for pilots and engineers, but we still encourage foreigners to come also.
This is why we are here, we keep bringing in younger personnel and it is a continuous process. We keep bringing in younger ones to replace those who are retiring and when you retire, but not tired, we still take you on contract to impart your knowledge and the experience you have on the new generation of instructors.