Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 4th 2017 Contents BG6 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt MAY 4 • 2017
Learn to fly...in T&T
For those so inclined,
few experiences com-
pare to the rush one
feels sitting thou-
sands of feet above
the ground while a
student pilot veers left, and then
banks right as he or she goes through
the paces on their way to achieving
their private pilot's licence.
The swirl of air currents that move
the light, four-seater aircraft sharply
up and then abruptly down are not
for the faint of heart---or stomach.
To the uninitiated this is a thrill,
but for the team at Aerial World Ser-
vices Ltd---a T&T Civil Aviation Au-
thority-certified flight school---it's
just another day at the office.
Based in Camden, Couva (a stone's
throw away from the University of
T&T's aviation campus), the flight
school has been providing training
for aspiring pilots for the last four
The gamut of services offered by
the school spans from certification
of private pilots' licences (the lowest
grade) all the way up to commercial
certification, (to fly the big aircraft)
and helicopter licensing as well.
"There is really no need for any-
one interested in becoming a pilot
on either a helicopter or aircraft to
leave Trinidad for training" says Ni-
gel Ramsahai, the school's founder
and director of flight operations.
In Ramsahai's estimation, the po-
tential to develop the local aviation
industry is tremendous.
"Our country has a rich aviation
history that has largely been un-
derdeveloped. As an industry, the
aviation sector has both the capacity
to earn foreign exchange, by having
pilots from around the region and
for the world come here to learn to
fly, as well as save foreign exchange
since no aspiring pilot needs to leave
T&T to get certified" the 57-year-
old former commercial pilot said.
Questioned about what inspired
him to get involved in pilot training,
Ramsahai said there were several
advantages inherent to Trinidad
that made pursuing such a venture
a unique opportunity
"We believed we could build a
viable training market for aviation
based on our geographic location.
We can offer our training services
to territories in south and central
America, and the wider Caricom
"Also, we have an adequate supply
of skilled, internationally qualified
locals operating in the domestic avi-
ation industry and we can utilise
them as key resources to develop
and attract people, both locally and
internationally, who are interested
in becoming pilots.
"T&T is a category 1 country (an
International Civil Aviation rating
that governs safety standards in the
airline industry and allows air carri-
ers to initiate and expand new routes
in the US) which is desirable from the
perspective of attracting business
from the international market."
Ramsahai added that an experi-
ence some years ago confirmed that
he was on the right path in building
"Three years ago, I attended a
training conference in Shanghai,
China. At the conference it was dis-
closed that China alone would need
600,000-700,000 pilots in the next
few years. For me, I saw no reason
why we in Trinidad could not get
part of that market.
"With the right supporting struc-
tures in place, T&T could be a hub of
recruitment for students from China
interested in learning to fly. There
would be many positive spillover
effects of this as well."
Probed about the present enrol-
ment at the school, Ramsahai point-
ed out that there were students at
various levels of certification.
"We currently have about 20 stu-
dents at different stages of training.
Some are in the private licence pro-
gramme; some part of the instru-
ment programme and others in the
commercial programme; it's dis-
Ramsahai added that the quality
of instructors was of paramount
importance to the school.
"We have eight instructors cur-
rently on staff, qualified to the high-
est level and can teach all the way up
to the commercial multi-instrument
"We have both fixed-wing and
helicopter instructors so we cover
the entire range of certifications."
Desire to fly is one thing, but
ability to afford the rigorous and
time-intensive training necessary to
become a qualified pilot is another
Asked about the fees associated
with the school Ramsahai said: "We
have broken down our payment in
phases. You have the private li-
cence ---the first phase---which costs
roughly $70,000 for which we take a
50 per cent downpayment with the
balance due before the end of the
"Acquiring this licence can take
anywhere from between three to five
months depending on an individu-
al's ability and how much effort they
put into the course. We also design
the courses to work with the time
each individual has."
Ramsahai added that
after the private
licence, the stu-
dent could move
through the vari-
ous other training
programmes. If they so desired,
this would take them all the way to
certification as a T&T-trained com-
instrument rated pilot.
"At this level, a locally trained pi-
lot would be marketable worldwide,"
Ramsahai pointed out.
To build awareness of the flight
school and it offerings, Ramsahai
said there were many avenues that
he and his team of about 20 staff
members had employed.
"We have done career days at
schools. We've held seminars both
locally and regionally, and we also
do charitable work. We've even held
small summer camps for different
age groups where we took some of
the children flying. All these things
spark interest in the minds of the
young who could become the pilots
Like many enterprises operating
in Trinidad, doing business in the
aviation industry is not without its
fair share of challenges.
Commenting on some of these
challenges Ramsahai said: "In this
business, it's all about being at the
cutting edge of technology which
can be costly.
"Additionally there are certain
bureaucratic structures that really
hinder progress in terms of moving
activity in the industry forward. So
communication can be a challenge
between agencies vested with re-
sponsibility for different areas in
the aviation industry.
"But one of the biggest challenges
is really to shift the mindset that to
become a qualified pilot one needs
to go abroad to train.
"What we offer locally is just as
good, if not better than some of the
training offered outside of T&T."
Amral Persad, centre, displays his
certificate for his first solo flight on
an Enstrom helicopter.
Also in photo is instructor Ravi
Rampersad, left, and flight director
GML's Robert Dumas, right, with his
instructor Kirby Babwahsingh.
One of the biggest challenges is really
to shift the mindset that to become a
qualified pilot one needs to go abroad
to train. What we offer locally is just
as good, if not better than some of the
training offered outside of T&T.
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