A South African flight school has gone global in its reach and is now training cadet pilots from all over the world.

With bases at Port Alfred, Port Elizabeth and East London airports, 43 Air School is aiming to train up to 300 pilots a year, who will all graduate with a South African air transport pilot’s licence (ATPL).

Attie Niemann, chief executive of 43 Air School and a former fighter pilot with the South African Air Force, said: “We have students from more than 40 countries and four continents training with us. We specialise in airline training and, if you go to our Facebook page, for instance, we have more than 300,000 followers from all countries and continents.

“We train students from Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and Australia and we have exclusive contracts with overseas airlines to train their airline cadets.”

The school owes its name – 43 Air School – to a World War 2 operation started in 1940 to train bomber pilots and observers. It closed in 1946 when the war ended. The name was resuscitated in 1989 when a civilian flying school was opened in some renovated buildings left over from the original 43.

The operation stepped up a gear in 2002 when it was acquired by NAC. Then, in 2012, it made the transition to offering airline pilot training, recognising the growing demand for pilots. “We are the only approved training organisation (ATO) in Africa that offers the integrated ATPL course. Because of the stringent requirements to get approval from the South African Civil Aviation Authority, we are still, after five years of offering it, the only school that has this ability,” said Niemann.


“In addition, we also offer students the further training to get then ready for employment with our A320 and 737NG, which means we can have a student airline-ready in two years – no other ATO can offer this.”

This last statement refers to 43’s new airline pilot standards multi crew cooperation (APS MCC) course, which is an enhanced MCC course introduced by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to “sharpen up” cadet pilots and get them ready for taking a type rating, usually on an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737.

Niemann admits that 43’s ambitions include offering an EASA ATPL course sometime in the future. That move would take them head-to-head with some of the premier flight training schools, such as CAE and L3 Airline Academy. However, Niemann is clear about 43’s their commercial advantage. “It’s value for money and the quality we deliver,” he said. “I believe we compete well with CAE and other premier European ATOs.”
Of course, one of the biggest problems affecting would-be airline pilots is finding the finance to pay for the training – upwards of £100,000 for an integrated ATPL with some of the European-based ATOs. 

Like those ATOs, 43 doesn’t offer finance itself. However, 70% of the airlines sending students to the school are sponsoring them. For the rest, it’s a question of finding the cash or, in a rare case like Regomoditswe Isis Swarahle, attracting a scholarship.

There’s no standing still in the dynamic pilot training market and 43 has introduced a digital learning process for the theoretical knowledge side of the ATPL. It also has training aircraft with electronic flight displays, rather than the old ‘steam’ mechanical gauges, a full-time safety officer, 70-plus instructors, 240 full-time staff and modern campuses with full facilities. This is a big business!


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