The Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria is one of the foremost aviation training institutions in Africa, established by the United Nations alongside the one located in Ethiopia.
But there was a time the school became a desert. It was abandoned. Neglect almost obliterated it to oblivion and the training personnel became irrelevant, almost chocked up by idleness. That was before the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration began to revive the institution. By then its contemporaries had moved way ahead. The aviation training school in Ethiopia, for example, has so excelled that there is no more ground for comparison.
However, since the Obasanjo administration, the NCAT has continued to soar and has regained its old prestige and aura. Now it is rising to be counted in the comity of major aviation training institutions in the world.
In 2018 the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) named NCAT the Regional Training Centre of Excellence (RTCE), thus the college has joined the firmament of major aviation training schools in the world.
Being ICAO Training Centre of Excellence has given NCAT more visibility worldwide.
The Rector of the College, Captain Muhammed Abdulsalam, told THISDAY recently, that, “I travelled to China and a Chinese man asked me where I came from and immediately I mentioned NCAT, he said ‘Oh, RTCE’.
“There are just few RTCEs in the world and it takes a lot of efforts and process before any institution is recognised as an RTCE. Now, when you have this status, it affords you the opportunity to develop courses in all the ICAO Annexes. We can also import courses from any part of the world that are ICAO approved courses and conduct them here.
“With RTCE, the sky is actually the limit for us as we can run any course. Right now, we have some foreign students in the college; some from Cameroon, some from The Gambia who are doing training and we expect more.”
The above encapsulates how NCAT has risen and has continues to rise. Now, the challenge NCAT is facing is to have the needed equipment to meet the expectation of trainees and to retain its quality as one of the foremost aviation training schools in the world.
It is also challenged in the area of manpower growth and development. The school ought to have grade one instructors in order to continue to retain and sustain the status it has attained.
The federal government has ensured that the school is able to meet and overcome these challenges. A fortnight ago, government announced that it has acquired six new Diamond training aircraft for the school.
The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika who facilitated the acquisition promised that government would continue to support the school.
THISDAY learnt that the aircraft, which were inspected by the Minister and the Rector of the school at the manufacturer’s facility in Austria, would be delivered to the College this February.
The Minister said that the federal government was determined to provide the school the equipment it needs to train its students well and maintain its status as one of the best in the world.
“The fleet increase for the school is in our effort to catch up with technology in line with our approved roadmap. Our efforts have earned Zaria the status of ICAO Regional Training of Center of Excellence,” said Sirika.
Shortly afterwards, the Minister announced the procurement of a Boeing 737 simulator for the College. The simulator is B737 New Generation (NG) variant for the retraining of pilots type rated on the aircraft.
The Rector, Captain Mohammed who had spoken earlier about the simulator had explained that the simulator is the type “Arik Air operates”.
“We envisaged that the B737 Classics are on their way out. That is why we decided to go for the NG. This project would have been completed a long time ago.
“The initial process was to site the simulator in Lagos, but when this administration came into power in 2015, the decision was changed to site it in Zaria and there was no provision for the building that will accommodate this simulator. We looked at the possibility of using existing structures, but they are not suitable.”
But the facility where the simulator would be located has been completed and the equipment would soon be delivered to the school.
It has to be noted that few years ago NCAT took decision to change its trainer aircraft from Tampico to Diamond aircraft, which uses aviation fuel that could easily be procured. The Tampico uses Avgas (aviation gasoline), which is not common and costs a whale of money, making the funding unsustainable.
The six Diamond trainer aircraft procured are part of the 20 of the brand approved for purchase by the federal government. With adequate manpower, equipment and commitment, the Nigerian College of Technology, Zaria is poised to continue to soar.
By Chinedu Eze