Stella Oduah, Aviation Minister
Industry expert and seasoned pilot with a major Nigerian carrier has warned that the country may witness more air crashes in spite of government’s efforts to improve safety in flight operations, owing to lack of maintenance hangar for aircraft in the country.
The pilot argued that it was imperative to have maintenance hangar domiciled in Nigeria, because old aircraft needs constant maintenance and the operators cannot keep to the maintenance demands when no such facility is available.
According to him, to ensure that an old aircraft is worthy all the time, the operator must carry out scheduled maintenance, unscheduled maintenance as well as preventive maintenance.
He noted that the regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) monitored regulated maintenance, but did not monitor unscheduled maintenance, which is at the discretion of the operator and preventive maintenance, which should ensure that the aircraft is air worthy every morning before it begins service.
The pilot insisted that an operator could compromise on unscheduled and preventive maintenances when there is no local maintenance facility.
He pointed out that an old aircraft might require a daily routine maintenance especially when it is flogged daily noting that an operator could compromise this important aspect of maintenance because of the time and cost of ferrying the aircraft overseas.
He said: “Operating old aircraft in an environment where there is maintenance facility is not a problem, but if it is in a place where there is no maintenance facility, it is dangerous because old aircraft needs regular maintenance and monitoring; if not it will endanger safety of lives.
“A simple analogy is a new car and an old car. An old car normally is taken to the mechanic more frequently. Imagine the challenge if you are driving an old car and you don’t have a mechanic in your area. You would prefer to manage some problems in the car till you have the time and money to take it to the mechanic a distance away.”
The pilot also observed that because Nigeria did not have the culture of maintenance, an airline operator might choose to carry out the scheduled maintenance that is in NCAA log book and defer both unscheduled and preventive maintenances.
He added: “The lifespan of an aircraft is average of 25 to 30 years. At 22 years about 80 per cent of the aircraft life is spent. The aircraft needs regular maintenance at that age and close monitoring by the NCAA, so we expect the regulatory body to have greater oversight, overseeing how snags (technical problems) are cleared to make sure that the aircraft remains serviceable, not only for scheduled maintenance like A check, B check, C check and D check, but also for unscheduled maintenance.”
He said that in spite of all the argument about old and new aircraft that to ensure that there is safety in Nigeria air transport, the country should do away with old aircraft.
He added that the important thing is for the country to urgently establish maintenance facility for regular maintenance of these aircraft.
“If there is local maintenance hangar, an operator after the day’s flight can take his aircraft to the hangar, examine it and prepare it for tomorrow’s flights”, he said.