As Uganda Airlines took-off to the skies after close to 20 years of dormancy the ripple effect of its return caused waves of renewed hope and excitement in Soroti, a town in eastern Uganda that is home to the East African Civil Aviation Academy (EACAA).
The constant sight of the Cessna planes hovering over the skies of Soroti town and the surrounding districts, is testimony to the new lease of life that officials hope will once again see the Academy regain its position as a provider of quality training in Africa.
Established in 1971 by the East African Community (EAC), a regional body that originally united Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the EACAA trains student pilots and engineers for the commercial aviation industry, as well as for the military.
However, following the collapse of the EAC n 1977, the custodianship of the Academy reverted to the Uganda government. After East African Community (EAC) revival in the early 1990s, strengthened with the inclusion of Rwanda and Burundi, the regional body sought to refurbish the Academy.
During the time, EACAA operated without attachment to any airline and was laden with a number of challenges ranging from man power shortage, to lack of training equipment. Testimonies of students taking more years than the approved two were common.
Resumption of flights by Uganda Airlines has coincided with the renovation of the Academy, which recently received seven modern Cessna planes. According to EACAA’s new director, Lt. Col. Ronald Turyamubona, it is a change of fortune for better service delivery by the institution.
The Academy’s once deserted hangar is again buzzing with activity, as both engineering and student pilots taxi planes for flight lessons.
Listening to Turyamubona, one is filled with greater hope that government and EAC will inject substantial sums of money to develop the infrastructure at the Academy.
The Academy currently owns nine Cessna planes with only two analogue-run planes. A modern simulator and an aviation machine used to train students outside the normal flight lessons were also acquared.
“All is not bad, we have what it takes to churn out a cream of pilots who can compete anywhere in Africa,” says Turyamubona. “There may be some problems but they are not of great impact. The students need to focus, utilize every minute of their two-year course to excel, using the available machines,” he says.
The Academy currently offers seven courses: Private License, Commercial Pilot License, Instrument Rating, Airline Transport Pilot License, Flight Dispatch, Flight Instrument Rating and aircraft maintenance engineering in Airframe and power plant. On recruitment of instructors, the Director, says, it is one of the issues that the government is committed to solving, once matters of ownership are concluded.
“Government, with other member states, are looking into this matter, well knowing that after the collapse in 1977, its the Uganda government that sustained the once-revered Academy,” he says.
Among other key issues, Mr. Turyamubona, says the EACAA is planning for enrollment with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Trainair Plus Programme. The Programme promotes training geared at providing safe, secure and sustainable development of global air transport.
Trainair Plus provides valuable ICAO support to its member states and the aviation industry through the implementation of high –quality standards in civil aviation training and capacity building. It also assists with development of sustainable human resource strategies consistent with ICAO.
Trainair Plus is a cooperative network of training organizations and industry partners.
Ms Moreen Namutosi, student pilot said, “Our expectations are high, since Uganda Airlines was revived. We believe the management will tap the human resource from this Academy.”
“There is nothing better than that”, she adds, “well knowing that today, over 98 per cent of the pilots, engineers, flight dispatch crew recruited for Uganda Airlines have gone through EACCA.”
Enthusiasm is up in Soroti. Students believe East Africa as a block has stepped up commercial aviation activities, which could translate in employment for the graduates.