Police helicopter charter services spark row in aviation
Alleged deployment of helicopters in the fleet of Nigerian Police Air Wing into commercial charter operations has sparked row in the aviation sector.
The airlines operators, who protested the move, said the police force ran foul of the civil aviation regulations that prohibited such public-owned asset to engage in “reward and hire” services.
More disturbing for the operators is alleged demarketing and gross underpricing of helicopter operations that the police air wing brought into charter operations, by reducing the average cost of charter by 80 per cent.
But in a reaction, the police headquarters has denied the commercial or shuttle services, saying there was no time the Police helicopters were deployed for hire and reward.
Chief Operating Officer of a popular helicopter services confirmed the development, saying one of the choppers was deployed during the recent ground-breaking ceremony of Military University at Biu, Born State.
He said such “fee-for-service and illegal operation” jeopardize the interest of commercial operators, who have proper permit, licenses and approvals to carry out charter flights.
Investigations revealed that helicopter charter shuttles for which commercial operators charge $105,000 is being allegedly carried out by the Police Air Wing for $30,000.
The COO said it is only a matter of time before the helicopter charter business is brought to ruins by illegal operators.
“The police can even offer these services for free. They lose nothing because the taxpayers are always there to support their operations unlike our investors that borrow to support the industry. But I know that this is not how to encourage investors or help business to survive,” he said.
Another close source said though helicopters in the Police Air Wing are meant for government services under the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, they are, however, being used for commercial services.
“The helicopters in the fleet of the Nigeria Police Air Wing are meant for government services and under the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations can only operate for the services of Nigeria.
“They cannot operate as a scheduled, non-scheduled private operator with airlines’ operating permit or air transport license and air operators’ certificate, but solely with special permit under civil aviation.
However, the Police Air Wing is using their helicopter to conduct commercial charters without the required insurance or permit.
“They operated these illegal charters between Kaduna and Abuja last year during the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport’s runway renovation.
Now it is to Gombe. No wonder they could not perform any security patrol that the equipment were to be used for.
“They just did a job for the Nigerian Army at Biu, laying foundation of Defence University using two Bell 412 and a Bell 429 flying from Gombe to Biu. This job worth $105,000 but was done at $30,000 using tax payers’ fuel, tax payers equipment and jeopardizing investments.”
The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) also adjudged such activity as illegal, but urged the complainants to show evidence.
Spokesperson of the apex regulatory body, Sam Adurogboye, said it is illegal to do “hire and reward” services when a fleet is not registered for such.
“However, we need evidence even if the operators will present it anonymously. Not to show us the evidence is like tell us to act on hearsay. We don’t work like that, “Adurogboye said.
Force Public Relations Officer of the Police Headquarters, Abuja, Jimoh Moshood, in a statement, said the police helicopters are deployed on regular basis for operational purposes and to aid other security and safety agencies in their operations and other activities in line with inter-agency cooperation and collaboration.
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