Alleged interference stalls Aero Contractors’ return to flight operations
•NG Eagle’s fate undecided
•We are under no pressure, says NCAA
Over a month after it acquired two Dash-8 Q400 aircraft to bolster its operations, Aero Contractors is unable to resume scheduled operations over alleged interference by some external factors.
The local carrier, which voluntarily withdrew services three months ago following the depletion of its fleet, currently has four aircraft ready for flight services.
Similarly, the fate of NG Eagle – a startup airline from irrecoverable assets of Arik Air – remains uncertain following the interference of the National Assembly in the approval of its Airline Operator Certificate (AOC).
However, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) which is saddled with such approvals, said they were under no pressure to deny or sanction operating requests, adding that the apex regulatory body would only grant certification once all the open items are closed.
The oldest commercial airline in Nigeria, Aero Contractors, has been under receivership since it was taken over by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). It has also been embroiled in one crisis or the other.
Very recently, the return of Aero’s former Managing Director, Capt. Ado Sanusi, to the airline’s management, sparked protests from some quarters, threatening to shut down the distressed airline.
A top official, yesterday, said such protests “and interests by some aggressive forces” were frustrating their efforts to resume flight operations.
He noted that the airline already has a Boeing 737-800 and three Dash-8 on the ground. He added that the only pending issue was the staff financial guarantee, which AMCON has given a guarantee on addressing the welfare issue.
The senior official said: “Aero Contractors wrote about three months ago that it wanted to voluntarily suspend operations because of industry challenges. Now, Aero is ready to return having met all requirements spelt out by NCAA, but the regulatory agency is reluctant to allow us to come back. The agency had previously given us assurances that we could return whenever we are ready, but today, they are unwilling to allow us.
“If Azman Air, which was suspended by the NCAA for failing in a lot of things, could be allowed to return within 12 hours, I don’t know why we can’t come back to services because we have done all we needed to do and received assurances from them until now.
“We have four aircraft that are ready. The NCAA is aware of this. I want to believe there is external interference in the whole thing. If not, we should have returned to the sky by now, especially when we have met all their conditions,” he said.
Spokesperson of the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, however, debunked the claims. Adurogboye said once Aero Contractors fulfils all requirements, it would return to operations.
“For some items to be closed, you need to do certain things. I want to believe they are doing what they are supposed to do. When they are through with whatever they are doing, they will call us and we will sit down with them,” he said.
Adurogboye said the apex regulatory body retains its autonomy, especially over issues bothering on safety. “The Director-General has said this several times. It is not tenable for the NCAA not to release you to return to operations once you have fulfilled all you are required to do. There is no one that is pressurising us.
“Everything we do at NCAA, we are being monitored. Once they see that you are not doing what you are supposed to do, you will lose your rating. We don’t want to lose our rating within and outside Nigeria,” Adurogboye said.