One of a kind KwaZulu-Natal aviation academy teaches youth to reach beyond the limit of the sky

09 December 2019

A unique aviation training academy Skyy Aviation Academy, based at the Dube TradePort has trained thousands of school leavers for the world of aviation.

“From stepping into or off a flight, almost anywhere in the world,  I meet our students,” says Durban-based Anjil Naidoo , Training Director of Skyy Aviation Academy, which is the only training school of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal. 

The Academy is accredited with the South African Civil Aviation Authority,  TETA, Amadeus South Africa and through an international affiliation accredited for  Altea CM Training.

There are currently 260 students completing one of six one-year training courses  that Skyy offers - Aviation Support Training with Cabin Crew; Air Travel and Customer Services with Cabin Crew; Air Cargo and Aviation Support Training with Cabin Crew; Aviation Support Training; Air Travel and Customer Services Training; Air Cargo and Aviation Support Training.

 Increased passenger numbers and increased international flights out of Durban, the future growth of King Shaka International Airport,  Dube Cargo Terminal as well as the development of the Durban Aerotropolis bodes well for the aviation industry in KZN.  

The Academy’s international accreditation ensures that its graduates can work anywhere in the world. It also attracts students from across Africa and Mauritius. 

With major Middle Eastern airlines offering employment to South African candidates, it made sense to ensure that students are abreast of the appropriate etiquette and what to expect when working in the Middle East. “We always have a contingent of students working in the Middle East and it is not unusual to get a call from Doha requesting employees referrals, says Naidoo.

Ensuring that the Academy’s students are always marketable, Naidoo is continually looking at trends and gaps in the market. They were the first to offer training on the Amadeus computer passenger reservation system and are the first and only training centre In Africa to offer training on the Altea system. Altea is used in 120 airports globally and Academy staff is trained in France. 

Beyond aviation, the training the students receive enables them to work in travel and tourism, aviation meals and other related sectors such as retail.

Naidoo has a lot of plans for the future but is not about to divulge them other than to say that these are innovative and will come to be when they move into their new 1500 square metre premises in the Dube TradeZone 1.

Whilst engaged in an aviation careers day for thousands of learners with SAA in 2005,  Naidoo saw a gap in KwaZulu-Natal for an aviation training school.  She took time off and plunged herself into researching the industry and  the legislation that relates to cabin crew training, developing training manuals and becoming South African Civil Aviation Authority accredited training institution in KZN. She brought on people steeped in experience as trainers and and introduced the first Cabin Crew Training School on Musgrave Road, in 2007.     

The first year was difficult with a small contingent of just 25 learners.  Nevertheless, all the students received their SACAA licenses and all but one were employed in the aviation sector.

A strategic move the following year took the Academy to the Durban International Airport which provided buy-in from the sector.  A contingent of 140 students acquired their cabin crew licenses with 90%  being employed by SAA and the remainder with smaller airlines.

By 2009 /2010 Skyy Aviation had made its mark and all its students were involved in the trial operations of the then-new King Shaka International Airport.

Early on Naidoo realised that many of the students did not meet the height requirements for cabin crew  and not all had a passion to work as cabin crew members which led her to  expand and include ground training course to the curriculum offered at Skyy. The accredited courses start from the very basics and work through the complexities so students are knowledgeable on mandatory practices and as well as the  standard and recommended practices that contribute to a safe and efficient industry.

 “We are unique in our offering and how we run our Academy and we have built good strong relationships with  aviation stakeholders. There is a definitive difference in our courses which are matter-of-fact and given by expert trainers with decades of experience in the industry. 

“When our students get to an airline there is nothing foreign to them; they are well equipped  and knowledgeable of the aviation industry. We are passionate about our students and want them to see that the sky is not the limit,” says David Frew Skyys Training Manager and Altea and Amadeus instructor.

The Academy also has a relationship with Disney in the US and annually a  small contingent are selected to work as cultural representatives at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. “This is an amazing experience”, says Naidoo. She says some of the student achievements are inexplicable while Frew puts it down to the open door policy, discipline and, giving students time to get to the bottom of their problems so that they want to do better.

Other achievements include being runner up in the SACAA Industry Awards in the training division; a student becoming the face of Kulula Airlines, another the face of Etihd Airways and the Academy being on Expresso breakfast show with a song they composed and sang for President Nelson Mandela’s birthday in 2013.

Naidoo says they constantly strive to grow in what they are doing but it is not about numbers and the Academy is booked for the next two years. “There are families where more than one child has been a student, their friends and neighbours. Word-of-mouth is what drives people to our door.”