National airline Air Namibia has kick-started a process to address the fact that only 30 percent of its pilots are black – which contradicts its internal and national affirmative action policy requirements.
The airline said contrary to undertones of racism being peddled against it, the exercise is meant to meet compliance and equity issues as set out in national laws.
Air Namibia currently has 17 non-Namibian pilots and the airline is now in the process of appointing Namibian understudies with a view to eventually appointing them in those positions when opportunities arise.
The airline has a total of 92 pilots, 82 percent of whom are Namibian. The airline confirmed this week that that 70 percent of its pilots are white, a representation which could land the company in trouble with affirmative action authorities.
Over the years, the airline only managed to produce three black captains for its long haul intercontinental routes.
The exercise is said to have sparked despondency among the airline’s white and foreign pilot staff, who fear the company is deliberately trying to replace it with black staff.
Air Namibia is now in the process of recruiting ten additional pilots and internal bickering has started, with attempts being made by the two racial groups to get the available vacancies.
Allegations have since surfaced that the company was considering employing black pilots who do not have sufficient flying hours under their belt.
Air Namibia spokesperson Paul Nakawa explained that many black pilots have not had ample chances from the local aviation industry and have comparatively low flying hours compared to most of their white competitors.
“Air Namibia is aware that the industry, especially the private sector, does not easily take previously disadvantaged pilots, which testifies to the notion of the low flying experience,” he said.
All candidates, however, have commercial pilot licences , favourable instrument rating, twin rating and night rating.
Nakawa said the fact that 70 percent of the airline’s pilot staff is white did not mean all future appointments would only consider black applicants.
“We have and we will continue to comply with the labour laws of the Republic of Namibia by addressing these past imbalances,” he said.
He said new pilots who might lack experience would be helped until they reach the internationally required levels of competency before they are allowed to serve the airline.
“Air Namibia has a safety culture and safety is our core value,” he said. “In short a candidate needs to go through so many training phases before they get into the cockpit of our aircraft.”