Airline operators decry cost of maintaining planes abroad
DUE to the absence of certified maintenance facilities for aircraft checks in the country, the airline operators may have been spending huge amount of money to fly their aircraft outside Nigeria for maintenance. Indeed, many carriers are lamenting over the issue.
It has been revealed that comprehensive (C) Check on B737 classic maintenance in Europe, the United States or in Cairo, Egypt; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, costs an airline $1m.
According to report, some aircraft maintenance engineers claimed that lack of Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facilities in the country, had cost the operators and the government over $170bn since the essence of a hangar project was highlighted over two decades ago. It also revealed that, as such maintenance is done in foreign exchange, it makes things more difficult for the airlines in Nigeria.
Consequently, maintenance of aircraft here in the country would cost the airlines less than half of the immense amount of ferrying aircraft abroad for repairs in those countries with world-class aircraft maintenance facilities.
However, it is believed that it would be cheaper if Nigeria has its own maintenance facility. It is also believed that, if there is an MRO in Nigeria; the country’s airlines will be spending less time and money at the facility before checks.
Aircraft maintenance checks are periodic inspections that have to be done on all commercial/civil aircraft after a certain amount of time or usage; while, military aircraft normally follow specific maintenance programmes, which may or may not be similar to those of commercial/civil operators.
Airlines and other commercial operators of large or turbine-powered aircraft follow a continuous inspection program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States or by other airworthiness authorities. Under FAA oversight, each operator prepares a Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Program (CAMP) under its operations specifications.
Airlines and airworthiness authorities casually refer to the detailed inspections as “checks”, commonly one of the following: A check, B check, C check, or D check. A and B checks are lighter checks, while C and D are considered heavier checks.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) has called on the incoming government to look into the major challenges facing the aviation industry and ways to boost the development, as well as grow the sector.
The association noted that foreign domination and the related question of capital flight by these foreign mega carriers has given the Nigeria small airlines very unfair competition.
They stated that, the need for foreign manpower supply in Nigeria has created local poor manpower development policy and practice.
The group added that lack of certified local maintenance facilities, have necessitated maintenance abroad.
Speaking in a statement recently, the National President, NAAPE, Balami Isaac David, who congratulated the President-elect, General Muhammed Buhari, said that; “Even as we celebrate your victory, knowing for sure that your antecedent will bring about victory for Nigerians, especially the down trodden, over poverty and other forms of backwardness, we hasten to ask that you brace yourself up for the rather difficult tasks ahead”.
He added; “One of the important tasks, we dear say, is the unstable of the aviation sector. We say this not because of our involvement with the sector, but because of the vital nature of aviation and its relevance to national development.”
Speaking further, Balami pointed that the absence of commitment to implementing various aviation actions plans, particularly, the Aviation Road Map has been slowing the growth of the industry.
His words; “Absence of will to harness the many potentials/opportunities that the sector offers for business, employment generation, breakthrough in science and technology, urban development, global relevance/reckoning, and the like.
The President maintained that, the following elements would make for immediate and substantial impact on the sector if the incoming government would act on them, which include;
• Bringing into fruition the plan to re-establish a national carrier. At the same time local carriers will be encouraged through incentives to forge mergers cum alliances
• Encourage the quick completion of at least one aircraft maintenance hangar in the country, such as the Uyo facility that is already at advanced stage but now abandoned due to high costs.
• Hasten the certification process of at least the major airports. This will go along with the development of one, or two, hubs in the country, particular the Lagos hub
• Develop the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria into an international institution.
• Hasten the aerotropolis project.
• Grant full and real autonomy to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and grow it into a world-class regulatory agency. This will enable the NCAA drive the process of growth and development in the proper sense of the word.
His words; “we wish to humbly crave Your Excellency’s indulgence to please be favourably disposed to having an aviation professional as Minister of Aviation. It has been our long held opinion that experience aviation professional with the needed managerial and political clout at the helm of affairs in the aviation ministry will move the industry forward better and faster.
“It is, therefore, our fervent prayer that His Excellency gives due and favourable thought to this request, especially as Nigerians who fit this billing exist in needed numbers.
We eagerly await your takeover of the reins on May 29th, and look forward to assisting your government record astounding success in the aviation sector,” Balami added.