The Global COVID-19 Pandemic has claimed yet another aviation victim and sadly this will have a major impact on the small Karoo town of Oudshoorn. After a relationship that lasted almost 10 years, AIFA (AVIC International Flight Training Academy (Pty) Ltd) has been forced to close its base at Oudtshoorn at the end of November. Oudtshoorn economy will lose an estimated R70 million a year when the AIFA closes its doors to students.
The closure is due to the global impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had and still has on the aviation industry and also the economy. Pikkie Siebrits, CEO of AIFA in Oudtshoorn, says the pandemic's effect on the world's aviation industry has caused this industry to shrink by almost 50%.
"We mainly train Chinese students, but where in the past more than 10000 Chinese pilots had to be trained annually, the demand has now shrunk to about 5 000, these can all be accommodated in China," he says.
According to Siebrits, AIFA needs to train about 160 students a year to be economically viable. However, in April 2021, they will only receive 50 students, which means that all training will take place at their Beaufort West Base.
"By March next year, we will no longer be able to keep three bases open. The infrastructure in Beaufort West was established by us, and it is part of our decision to train all students there in the future.”
AIFA currently has 178 students being trained at Oudtshoorn, George and Beaufort West. According to Siebrits, the 47 students from Oudtshoorn who will finish in April will receive complete their training at the George Base. George also allows training in night flights, after many complaints from residents were stopped at the Oudshoorn facility.
The George base will also close in March 2021 and the remaining students will be sent to Beaufort West, George will not feel the economic impact as badly as Oudtshoorn.