Is There a Pilot Shortage in Africa, Too?

Felipe Reisch interviewed industry experts to find out whether the pilot shortage experienced in other parts of the world is also an issue in Africa, and if so, how you can find one. Here’s what he learned…

Felipe Reisch  |  08th August 2023
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Felipe Reisch
Felipe Reisch

Felipe Reisch works as a public relations consultant for private aviation companies worldwide, leading...

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Is there a shortage of pilots in Africa?

The pilot shortage around the world is real. Meanwhile, the requirement for a very specific mix of technical ability and personality-type makes it harder to find the right candidate to fill a cockpit. And when you do find the ideal pilot to fill the role, it can also prove challenging to retain them. But is the situation any different in Africa?

There are many elements to consider when hiring a private jet pilot. Beyond the requirement for the necessary number of hours flown and the currency of their training, it's also necessary to hire someone with the right personality that serves as an extension to the whole private aviation experience.

Danie Joubert, Jetcraft's Vice President of Sales for Africa notes that retaining experienced pilots in Africa is an ongoing challenge, mostly due to attractive opportunities that exist elsewhere in the world. The net result is a pilot shortage in the region. “Africa often faces an oversupply of young pilots while experienced ones are recruited globally to plug shortages elsewhere.

"Lower salaries [in Africa] compared to other regions contribute to the drain of qualified crew, particularly in the corporate sector and on larger jets,” Joubert shares.

Pierre du Plessis, Flight Operations Manager, RPO for ExecuJet Africa, has noticed demand for flight crews registered a significant surge, both in the airline industry and the corporate aviation sector. This rise in demand has had an unfortunate consequence for the Southern African regions, which have experienced a loss of skilled professionals to other parts of the world.

du Plessis believes that the driving factors behind this talent migration is the better financial opportunities and job security offered by the corporate environment. “This phenomenon [has been] exacerbated by the relatively smaller corporate market in the southern part of Africa.”

Tips on Sourcing Private Jet Pilots in Africa

One option that has arisen for African operators and owners searching for suitable pilots to fly their jets is to look amongst the region’s aircraft management companies.

There seems to be no formula for decision-makers recruiting pilots, but Joubert believes using an aircraft management company to supply pilots has both advantages and disadvantages.

“These companies face similar challenges to the aircraft owners in terms of recruiting and retaining suitable pilots,” he says. “Pilot employment involves several considerations, such as training, visas, compliance with applicable aviation requirements, and insurance implications (due to many corporate pilots requiring simulator training outside of Africa).”

Moreover, considerations differ depending on whether the aircraft owner is new to ownership or seasoned, as du Plessis highlights.

“First-time aircraft owners might opt for freelance pilots to avoid the complexities and responsibilities of direct employment. On the other hand, experienced owners often have a personal preference for full-time employed crew, whether through a management company or by hiring them directly,” he adds.

Yet these companies are also in the ecosystem, facing similar challenges to owners in recruiting and retaining suitable pilots.

“For owners unfamiliar with aircraft management, using such companies may simplify the process,” Joubert explains. “However, having an experienced senior pilot with corporate and management skills can also be valuable and cost-saving for some owners.”

In this regard, du Plessis says aircraft management companies, particularly those with a solid reputation and established track record, offer advantages. “They have extensive networks enabling them to source highly qualified crew members.

“The management companies employ a systematic interview process to ensure they find the perfect ‘company fit’ profile for each individual pilot.”

Hiring Pilots in Africa? What to Look For

As mentioned, when hiring their own pilots, aircraft owners should consider several factors including flying experience, appropriate ratings for the aircraft, compliance with regulations and insurance requirements, and a flexible personality that is suited to corporate flying.

Joubert further adds that owners should practice due diligence to verify the pilot's experience and track record.

“Corporate pilots have additional responsibilities beyond flying, such as legal compliance, passenger assistance, ground handling, and maintenance involvement,” he says. “Pilots should collaborate with the owner and be able to accommodate an often-irregular flying schedule.”

Du Plessis shares a similar view, adding that a competent and legally compliant crew is crucial for any aircraft owner seeking to employ or utilize crew members.

“The preferred approach is to engage a specialized aircraft management company or pilot recruitment agency as they can mitigate the risks associated with hiring new crew members to operate your valuable asset,” he says.

Pilot Recruitment: A Complex Matter

Ultimately, the decision on crew employment is not a straightforward matter, and each owner must carefully consider their specific requirements and circumstances.

“In Nigeria, aircraft owners often offer premium salaries, but there remains a struggle to access suitable crew and retain them easily,” notes Joubert. “Additionally, some pilots switch to the airlines to increase their flying hours, further impacting the availability of crew to Business Aviation.”

Aircraft management companies, with their network and expertise, can certainly be a valuable resource in finding and retaining the ideal crew members for an aircraft owner's needs, but aircraft owners should invest time in familiarizing themselves with the laws and regulations.

“Ensuring a competent and experienced crew is paramount for the safety and success of any aviation venture,” du Plessis concludes.

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