Source: Tanzania Daily News
WITH 12 aircrafts, 40 pilots and daily flights, Coastal Travels is probably the largest airline in the country in terms of equipment. At a tender age of 35 years, the airline's Chief Instructor for Pilots, Captain Maynard Mkumbwa, with accumulated 12,300 flying hours, has been tasked to oversee the pilots' adherence to professional standards.

Business Standard Staff Writer ABDUEL ELINAZA had an opportunity to interview the young and highly experienced Tanzanian pilot...

QN: Does Tanzania have any commercial pilot training school that meets international standard?

A: Tanzania has only pilot schools in Dar es Salaam that train for Private Pilot Licenses (PPL) for private uses--there is no commercial school. The PPL doesn't allow one to fly a commercial aircraft--for the PPL holder can only fly friends and relatives, without charging them.

If the PPL holder wants to fly commercial airplanes, one has to go back to the training outside the country to get a commercial licence. There is no way the PPL holder can be recruited as commercial pilot without commercial training no matter how long one flies private aircrafts. Coming back to your question, there is no training school in Tanzania that trains commercial pilots. It's costly and currently, the training of one commercial pilot costs as high as 80m/-.

QN: From where then do airlines source pilots?

A: Recruitment of new pilots depends on airlines own set standards. But, in Tanzania, basically most pilots come from America, South Africa and Uganda, with some holding commercial licences with about 200 hours of flying. The airlines then mend the newly recruited pilots according to the internally set standards, which correspond to international standards.

At Coastal Aviation, for instance, we train our new pilots to handle Pilatus (PC 12), Cessna Caravan and Cessna 206. Our standard is that a pilot can self-fly after attaining 1,000 hours--before attaining the standard hours, the trainee has to sit on the left-hand side (with an experienced pilot on the right-hand side) to take over in case of any emergency.

QN: What is fleet size does Coastal Aviation hold?

A: In total, Coastal has a fleet of 21 aircrafts of mostly 14-seater capacity. And, to maintain the current fleet, the airline needs at least 40 pilots.

QN: As chief instructor of Coastal Travels, what is your daily itinerary?

A: As instructor, I train new pilots who join the airline to meet the set standards while at the same time ensuring that the existing ones are type-rated accordingly along the set and required standards to conform with international, aviation authority and airline set standards.

Actually, my calendar is full all year long as the airline is busy. I'm supposed to take a one month annual leave but sometimes I forfeit that right due to busy schedule. A type rating is an allowance to fly a certain type of aircraft that requires additional training beyond the scope of initial licence and aircraft class training. In some countries pilots flying an aircraft under a certain maximum takeoff weight of 5,700 kilogrammes do not require the type rating for each model. But in Tanzania, it's required to have type rating for every model of aircraft. QN: What does it take to become a pilot instructor? A: First, a pilot instructor serves to evaluate the knowledge and skill level of an aviator in pursuit of a higher pilot's licence, certificate or rating. Apart from the number of hours flown--experience, one can become the instructor because of trust, responsibility and integrity. After flying for 15 years, I have accumulated over 12,300 flying hours, the first 7,000 hours with Coastal Aviation. I left Coastal and joined Air Tanzania for four years, flying Boeing 737s and Dash 8 as captain. I trained to fly Boeing in South Africa and Dash 8 in Spain.

And I was called back by my former employee as an instructor. I got my commercial licence at the Flight Training College in South Africa and obtained my highest pilots licence at an institution called Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) flying school in USA.

QN: Between male and female trainee pilots who are easiest and fastest learning ones?

A: Normally males are quicker in learning than their female counterparts. But, my experience shows that though women are slow learners, after catching up, women turn out to become the best pilots.

QN: How about technological advancements in flying?

A: True, technology has simplified the way we fly airplanes nowadays. In today's world, even a two-seater flying gadgets are computerised. Pilots have therefore to be ahead of technologies before the technology gets ahead of them and turn their work a nightmare. The major challenge I see ahead is for pilots to update themselves on daily basis to cope with the computerisation of the cockpit gadgets.

QN: Coastal Aviation flies to remote areas where it's sometimes difficult even to spot the airstrip. What are the challenges encountered in instructing the pilot in such areas

A: The nature of Coastal Travel is to fly tourists to many of our classic tourism destinations, where sometimes the infrastructure is not aircraft friendly. But, the true challenges are not on landing and taking off, rather on meeting with wild animals at the runways. At one time after landing I was stuck at the aircraft for hours waiting for lions to clear off. Other challenges are normal--like maintaining sufficient number of pilots to enable the airline stays on air.

QN: What are personal challenges you have encountered in your 15 years of flying? What are your future ambitions?

A: I remember I was flying to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, piloting 14 passengers. The weather was rainy. Somewhere in the middle of the journey I ran into a thunderstorm. The cloud seemed innocent to fool my eyes and the aircraft radar weather. But alas! All of sudden, I was at the middle of the cloudburst like hitting an air pocket. The craft engine sounded as if it was losing thrust. It was real rough.

But thanks God. It passed suddenly as it came, just like a lighting. But almost all my passengers vomited. Normally, the Dar-Zanzibar route is safe from such turbulences. As the pilot, my ambition is to fly a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. B787 as it is called is really a dream to fly such a beautiful craft.

I am a Boeing pilot and I enjoyed a lot to fly B737 and piloting the latest version would be a real pleasure. On long term goal, I plan to open a pilot training school in future not only for PPL but also to offer commercial licences.

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