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Mar 02, 2012

SA group to boost technical education and use air team to attract young to study

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Industrial and mining group Eqstra is to invest some R36-million in supporting technical education in the country over the next five years. “We’ve adopted ten technical high schools around the country,” reports company CEO Walter Hill. “Most of these schools have got boarding facilities and recruit kids from across the country and from diverse backgrounds.” The money will be used to fund bursaries and learnerships, sponsor maths and science teachers and to buy equipment, among other things.

“We employ in excess of 1 500 technical artisans and we have operator and technical training academies, with, on average, 350 trainees. We need to feed that,” he points out. “The ultimate aim is that the technical high schools will feed our training academies and we can keep our equipment operating.”

To promote interest in technical education and careers among young people, Eqstra announced last week that it is now sponsoring the Flying Lions aerobatic display team. The sponsorship will be for the next two years, after which Eqstra will review it. “We will cover the costs of the maintenance, fuel and other support necessary to keep the aircraft flying,” he says. The Flying Lions perform at airshows all around the country.

“We’ll use the planes to get more kids involved [in technical training], to become artisans, technicians and engineers,” explains Hill. “Regarding the technical high schools, the idea is to take the pupils to see the aircraft at local air shows and allow them to see them up close, touch them and talk to the pilots, technicians and engineers.”

Naturally, there is also a public relations aspect to the sponsorship. “It is also to get brand awareness to our customers and the public,” he states. “The people who attend air shows are in our target market groups.”

“The sponsor gets a huge punt out of what we do,” assures Flying Lions team leader Arnie Meneghelli. “With the Eqstra sponsorship, we’d like to bring the joy of flight to schools.” The team is equipped with five North American Harvard piston-engined training aircraft, most of them 70 years old, and all owned by Meneghelli. All displays are flown using four aircraft, ensuring there is always a spare, if needed.

“We have 11 to 12 pilots in total, that we use,” he reports. “We use some as ferry pilots to take the aircraft to the airshow venues. Most of our pilots are from SAA [South African Airways].” The display pilots are Meneghelli himself, Scully Levin (who leads the team in aerobatic displays), Ellis Levin and Stewart Lithgow.

“In a way, we’re a flying museum,” says Meneghelli. “All the aircraft are operated under an AOC [Air Operator Certificate] issued by the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] and maintained according to certified requirements. These aircraft are safe. We do 100 hour inspections, or annual inspections – whatever comes first.”

The core activities of the Eqstra group are in the commercial, mining and construction sectors, including distribution, open pit contract mining, the rental of heavy equipment and plant and the long-term lease and rental of passenger and commercial vehicles and mobile capital equipment. The company serves customers in South Africa, elsewhere in Africa and in the UK and Ireland. “We benefit nearly everyone, every day,” affirms Hill. “Our commercial and vehicle leasing fleet that we own transports bread and milk, among many other things.”


The company is to invest R36-million in technical education over the next five years

Eqstra is to use an aerobatic team to attract young people to technical education and promote the company

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
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