Suleiman Hamud is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Skylink Flying School, located at the Wilson Airport in Nairobi County.
Hamud co-founded the aviation school in 2010 at the age of 24, alongside two of his fellow pilots, Dilipkumar Kerai and David Sipoche, who were 29 and 31 at the time, respectively.
From a man who came from a humble background, with sheer determination and resilience in the ever-competitive aviation industry, Captain Hamud has managed to steer Skylink into one of the best flying schools in Kenya.
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Here is his story as told by WoK.
Background & Education
Hamud hails from a humble background and is the firstborn of five siblings. He developed a passion for aviation while still in High School, and his parents supported his dream.
His mother sold her car to pay for his private pilot licence (PPL) at CMC Aviation (now DAC Aviation) in Nairobi, and lucky enough, he was retained as a ground instructor after completing his course.
At the time, he had been selected to the University of Nairobi to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce degree, but he was determined to acquire a commercial pilot licence that would qualify him to handle commercial aircraft. However, this cost millions of shillings and his family could not afford it.
Hamud saved his salary and managed to pay for his degree and a commercial licence and in 2008, he qualified for both.
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He continued to work at CMC and soon rose to the rank of chief ground instructor and later deputy chief flight instructor.
Hamud later realised that there was a demand in the market for aviation training and together with his friends Kerai and Sipoche, they raised Ksh7.5 million and acquired a plane with the hope of leasing it to their employer.
However, CMC declined the offer and their plan failed.
Not deterred by the initial rejection, the trio pooled Ksh25 million to open their own flying school in July 2010. Ksh15 million came from what they had saved from their salaries and Ksh10 million as a bank loan.
“Our strategy was to offer quality flight training services at a more affordable rate than other players in the market. We wanted to reach more Kenyans and demystify the myth that a flying career is only for the elite,” Hamud said during an interview with the Standard.
Training for a Private Pilot License (PPL) at Skylink costs Ksh650,000 according to Hamud. The training takes four months. A private commercial licence, on the other hand, costs Ksh2.4 million. The training takes seven months.
Practical flying lessons cost an average of Ksh15,300 per hour.
Hamud advises people interested in becoming pilots to plan their finances and work hard.
“For instance, parents and their children who are keen on a pilot career can start saving early so as not to be overwhelmed by the fees.”
Hamud notes that operating a business is challenging, adding that the country has high taxes which are levied on aviation fuel, as well as high landing and parking charges.
He said, for instance, a one-hour training session requires 25 to 35 litres of aviation fuel, which costs about Ksh7,350. At the time of the interview, five years ago, he hoped that the Government would review taxes in the aviation sector to enable it to grow and create jobs for more Kenyans.
He was however optimistic that the continued economic growth and development in Kenya and Africa would only increase the demand for more pilots.
“Skylink is looking to expand to regional countries where there is strong demand for flight training, but there are few or no quality flying schools,” he said.
Since its inception, Skylink sought to demystify the perception held by many Kenyans that a career in aviation is for a chosen few. The school’s fleet has since grown from just one aircraft at inception to over 10.
According to a report by The Standard, at least 30 per cent of students are from the region, particularly Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.