Attrition: Brain Drain In South African Air Force

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August 3, 2008: In the last three years, the South African Air Force (SAAF) has lost 91 pilots and 822 aircraft maintenance personnel. The SAAF has about 200 aircraft and helicopters, supported by 9,500 personnel (including 1,500 civilians). There are sixty combat aircraft, but only a third have qualified pilots to fly them. About a third of the non-combat aircraft lack pilots. Flying hours are restricted because of a shortage of qualified maintenance personnel.

The cause of all this is money, and fear. The pilots and technicians can make more money in the civilian sector, and even more if they leave Africa. The fear element is multifold. First, there is the high crime rate, which makes SAAF personnel fear for the safety of themselves and their families. Then there is the fear of white pilots and technicians that the governments affirmative action policies will limit their promotion opportunities. This also creates fears that unqualified pilots and technicians will be allowed to work with aircraft. This last fear is denied by the government, which points out that senior government officials use air force transports frequently.

The SAAF has had success in recruiting new pilots, with 123 in training. But aircraft technicians are harder to find, largely because there is a nationwide shortage of technically trained people.

 


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