Airline Shares Plans for Additional Ni Vanuatu Captains


When the current CEO Mr Finau met the Prime Minister for the first time, the Prime Minister asked why there were no Ni Vanuatu captains on the Boeing 737 which is the aircraft flying most of the international routes.

To answer this question clearly the airline has taken the time below to explain how certain pilot licenses are obtained and to outline some historical rules that have been put in place over decades of airline history in Vanuatu.

Early in the history of VanAir, a person with a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) qualification was able to Captain a Twin Otter. At some time between then and now, Air Vanuatu and Civil Aviation senior management decided to increase the level of qualification needed to become a captain of a Twin Otter. This change required pilots to obtain a higher qualification called an Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). Without being first captain of the Twin Otter and have their ATPL, a pilot cannot advance to being captain of the ATR or Boeing 737. This ATPL requirement in Vanuatu differs from many other countries in the
world including both Papua Niugini & Fiji. It also created a barrier for aspiring Ni Vanuatu
pilots from advancing.

To obtain the higher-level qualification that is currently required (the Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL)) the process requires a long period of study and flying which cannot be completed in Vanuatu. It is also expensive, for example, in Australia and New Zealand it costs approximately five million Vatu to obtain an ATPL. For a Ni Vanuatu pilot to get their ATPL they will need to study and live overseas which requires substantial finances to cover
the living costs in addition to the program and flying cost.

Air Vanuatu has been working with the Vanuatu Aviation Authority (CAAV) to amend this ATPL requirement for Twin Otter aircraft that will allow Ni Vanuatu to become captains. Making this change means Vanuatu will have the same requirements as larger Pacific nations such as Papua Niugini & Fiji whose pilots are predominantly Papua New Guinean and Fijian. Commonly, 1,500 flying hours is required for the ATPL holder. To make it extra safe, Air Vanuatu will require their CPL pilots to have completed an extra 500 flying hours by increasing their required flying experience to 2,000 hours. Once the pilots achieve captain
status, they will receive a higher salary. It is assumed that they may then be more likely to be able to afford the ATPL costs.

Air Vanuatu is awaiting the Vanuatu Aviation Authority (CAAV) to finalise this procedural amendment. It is expected that this will be complete within the next 4 weeks. While Air Vanuatu will very shortly have some extra pilots, it is unfortunately operating with lower than optimal pilot numbers. As a consequence, if more than one pilot takes sick leave at one time, as has happened this week, unfortunately our flights are disrupted. The airline apologises and understands client’s frustrations at the interrupted service.

Air Vanuatu’s goal is to welcome a fully qualified Ni Vanuatu to the role of Captain for the
Boeing 737 within the next 2 years.

Authorised for release by Atu Finau, Chief Operating Officer 3pm, Thursday 21st July 2022,