Arik Air, Nigeria’s major carrier, is partnering Lufthansa Technik to establish an international Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in the country that would attract businesses from different parts of the world.
Nigerian airlines lose billions of Naira every year ferrying their aircraft overseas for repairs and sometimes when such MRO facilities are saturated with demands and work, the airlines will have to keep their aircraft waiting for space.
The Chairman of Arik Air, Joseph Arumemi Ikhide, disclosed the plan on Tuesday in Lagos during the ceremony to celebrate the airline’s 6th year of operation.
Arumemi Ikhide said that the facility would be built to meet international standards, including that of the International Aviation Safety Assessment Program (IASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States.
The facility when completed would be one of Lufthansa’s major MRO located outside Hamburg, Germany, the headquarters of Lufthansa Technik and it is targeted to carry out overall maintenance of New Generation aircraft; that is, modern aircraft.
“And the MRO we are setting up with Lufthansa is global. It is not strictly for Arik alone. I just want to make that one very clear. Lufthansa sent us to Malta; the base of Lufthansa is Hamburg, but they have this type of facility they want to build for us in Malta; they have in Budapest; they have in Asia.
“What we made very clear to Lufthansa is that we want an MRO that will be global. Someone can come from Philippines, some can come from France, but one problem that we have, which I don’t know, except government takes a very strong step; we are looking for NGs, Next Generation aircraft. We are thinking about the A330s; we are not thinking about B737=200. We won’t maintain all that, but we may maintain B737=400,” said the Chairman of Arik Air.
He also said the establishment of the facility is largely dependent on the support of government and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), adding that Lufthansa gave conditions that must be met by the Federal Government before the facility would be established.
“Lufthansa set some conditions, which they feel the government must abide by. We have to work with NCAA and they have to keep it to IASA standards and FAA standards. So it is going to benefit the whole country. Arik itself will be a customer of that MRO so there is going to be a difference between Arik airline and the MRO.”
On the timeline for the project, Arumemi Ikhide projected that it could be established from next year if all the conditions given by Lufthansa were met and the European company was also hopeful that the building of the facility could start as quickly as possible.
“So as soon as they get back to Germany and we are able to get NCAA not what we are going to do is that we are going to raise a new company and then that company will be the MRO. I think it is a plus for Nigerian aviation. Planes from France can come here. It will be manned by Lufthansa; everything will be done by their standard.
“And then of course they are going to train Nigerians. There are international standards for all these things. I think we and NCAA will have to work hand in hand. We need government input and government approvals for it. It is better for all of us to key to it and educate the public. The MRO is a very important thing to our heart,” he added.
The Director of Airworthiness and Standards, NCAA, Emmanuel Usifo, said that the agency would give full support to the project and ensure that there would be no hitches of the side of the regulatory to actualising the project.
Also the Chief Commercial Officer of Lufthansa, Alfred Nessel, told THISDAY that his company was poised to establishing the facility in Nigeria, adding that the country needed MRO to enhance and develop the aviation sector.
He also said that Lufthansa would embark on training Nigerians who would man the facility, noting that it would take about three years for the indigenes to acquire necessary certification, to be fully involved in the maintenance and overhaul services.