Pioneer keeps ESAT and AFA on the cutting edge

Tunisia’s high-level training institutes are constantly updating their programmes to adjust to the growing need of the aeronautics sector.

Training pioneers: Members of the Ben Amara family.



Based in Tunis Carthage, the University College of Aviation & Technologies (ESAT) is the only private tertiary institution offering an integrated and pluri-disciplinary programme in aeronautics and technology, including an e-learning platform.

ESAT, which was set up in 2003, is part of the group founded by Abderrazek Ben Amara, who joined Tunisair as a pilot after his studies in Switzerland.

A training pioneer, he had previously set up the Airline Flight Academy (AFA) in 1998.

Since then, the AFA has been providing airlines and aerospace companies with pilots (more than 400) and mechanics (600) using tailor-made theoretical and practical courses.

“It’s essential to constantly adapt to technological evolution,” said Captain Ben Amara, who has enjoyed the full support of his wife, Amen.

She was heavily involved in the venture from its inception. “I shared the passion of my husband by accompanying every student on the journey to knowledge and know-how,” she said.

The captain and his team of instructors continue to train young Tunisians and Africans on three modern Airbus and Boeing simulators. The university is also awaiting an Embraer simulator.

ESAT is an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) member. It offers recognised engineering courses in aeronautics, geomatics and topography, telecom and networking, computers and programming. New courses are being added, like on-board systems.

Dual degrees in aeronautical engineering benefit from partnerships with foreign universities or specialised institutes in Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the UK and the USA.

Students benefit from scholarships and internships locally and abroad, in places like South Korea, to get professional experience while progressing in their curriculum.

Aicha Ben Amara, who took over as ESAT managing director from her mother in 2016, said: “We aim at excellence and innovation through a holistic approach. Human development, gender equality, leadership ability, language skills, and international experience are key elements of our training and education programme. Around 90% of our aeronautics students get a job after their degree.

“I learnt the basics from my mother. I observed the daily functioning of students, the administration and teaching team,” she continued. “I added my personal touch through immersion projects to enable our students to meet industry professionals. I wanted more student participation and interaction with the community.”

Thus, an aeroclub, scientific and cultural clubs, and communication platforms, like Tunivision, were launched to foster interaction, curiosity, awareness, communication, and personal skills.

However, Captain Ben Amara believes more must be done: “African countries must join hands to set up a common specialised training centre. We need integrated pathways for human resource and skills development. Governments, too, must invest in training and research to build a scientific culture,” he stressed.

The group’s development plan includes the setting up of a new common campus in Tunis for AFA and ESAT to welcome more African students.