Capt. Alkali Modibbo is the Rector and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria. In this interview with WOLE OYEBADE, Modibbo charts path to engaging hundreds of unemployed aviators in the country. He also x-rays prospects and challenges facing the flagship aviation training college.
About three years ago, the International Civil Aviation Oragnisation (ICAO) upgraded NCAT into a Regional Training Centre of Excellence (RTCE) with a mandate to serve the West African region. Of what benefit is this to NCAT?
Besides RTCE, ours is also an Approved Training Organisation (ATO) and we have had renewals, yearly. The benefit of these certifications is that we can increase training activities like the ICAO training courses and conventional courses in the college. In 2021, we had over 50 courses. RTCE gives us more visibility internationally and locally. You cannot train if you don’t have the reviewer of the ATO. So, these are benefits of the RTCE and ATO.
Insecurity is a major concern in the North. What impact has this had on the institution and its programmes?
Insecurity is a nationwide issue, and I am sure that there is no nation, community or environment, that is not facing 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 monitoring your movement. 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 that help them to ensure total security. However, people that want to commit havoc are not sleeping and we also are not sleeping. We will continue to improve on our security discretion and day-to-day arrangement.
How many students do you have from outside the country at NCAT?
We have about six foreign students. More students from Niamey are coming to the school very soon. The issue is that it is expensive for foreign students to enroll in this college. To be a pilot, you will need about $50,000. Nigeria has a large subsidy for its Nigerian pilots and engineers. However, we still encourage foreigners to come also.
How adequate are the trainer aircraft for budding pilots?
The institute has 20 aircraft of different makes like Diamonds, Tampicos and Beech Baron 58. We are looking at getting more Diamond aircraft. Seven of the Diamond aircraft were supplied in 2020. This year, we will be taking delivery of two of the Diamond aircraft – both double and single engine. Currently, we have about 20 serviceable aircraft at the college, and 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 (Diamonds) are advanced cockpits. We have the latest technology that you can find in any machine in it 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.
The aviation authorities and NCAT have taken steps to acquire Magnus aircraft that are powered by Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol. The advantages of that machine are: One, it is made from carbon fibre, very light and it uses 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 the (sole) 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.
What are the prospects for unemployed pilots, engineers and other qualified personnel in the sector?
I always say that college is for experience and knowledge. If we take in students, after a certain time, they are delivered to the public as graduates. At the end of the training, some will be pilots, engineers, cabin crew, air traffic controllers and so on. When you go out as a fully graduated person with the certificate, you look forward to get a job. The only way to get jobs, as a pilot or an engineer, is to have more aviation industrialisation through more airlines.
But the graduates can also work in the agencies and the ministry as a pilot or an engineer. It is not necessary that you must fly or repair an airplane. You can work in any of the agencies. The Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, for instance, is a pilot. The immediate past Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, is a pilot and the same applies to Capt. Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Organisation (NCAA). Also, the current Commissioner of Accident Investigation Bureau, Engr. 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 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 creating more opportunities for 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, especially if you have your own national carrier.
The college hostels are not in good shape. What has been the major challenge in running the college optimally?
The most pressing issue here 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 must apologise for the conditions of our hostels. I went out myself and I saw the state of some of the rooms. I called the Minister of Aviation myself and I said to him that the room he stayed in when he was studying engineering; the same building, room and toilet are still the same. Some of these facilities are 30 years old.
However, 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 awarded and the contractor is working to complete the hostel. Also, the contract to renovate the AA Hostel has been approved by the ministry.
So, we will start working on it. We are going to make sure you have more standard rooms whereby when you come, you will love this place.
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.