The desire of airline operators to have Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Nigeria, is gradually becoming a reality. In the next six weeks, Nigeriaâ€™s oldest airline, Aero Contractors would start C-check maintenance of Boeing classics, Boeing B737-300, B737-400 and B737-500 in addition to Bombardier Dash 400 and helicopters.
The airline has sent the necessary manuals to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for audit and approval and is currently negotiating with Approved Maintenance Organisation (AMO) for partnership and the extension of its hangar to fully take in Boeing 737 aircraft.
Spokesman of the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye told THISDAY on Wednesday that Aero already had the regulatory bodyâ€™s certification for the maintenance of smaller aircraft, including helicopters as well as to carry out A and B checks on bigger aircraft; but now that it wants to do major maintenance on bigger aircraft, NCAA would audit its facility, manpower and other requirements to ensure that what the airline is able to do dovetails with international standards and practices.
THISDAY also spoke with the CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, who gave details on the airlineâ€™s readiness and what it has achieved since February when he took over the management of the company.
Sanusi said that the airline has 58 years aviation experience and that is what it would bring to bear on the new effort of effectively and efficiently carrying out C-check maintenance of Boeing 737 aircraft.
â€œWe have agreement with my management team on how to conduct C-checks in Nigeria. We are confident that this will be achieved within the next six weeks with our skills and manpower. We have sent manuals to NCAA for variation to conduct checks on Boeing 737 classics,â€ Sanusi said.
He explained that the maintenance hangar the airline has now is not elaborate enough to fully take in a B737 aircraft, but it is already discussing with a parts and tooling company to extend the hanger farther.
â€œWe have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the company and we are talking with companies with established MRO like South Africa Airways (SAA) Technical to ensure that our maintenance meets international standards. SAA Technical said it is willing to sign agreement with us after the hangar extension. We are also in touch with approved maintenance organisations in order to ensure we carry out top quality maintenance,â€ Sanusi said.
He said that the airline would start C-checks on Boeing 737-300, 400 and 500 and later go up to also carry out maintenance of the new Boeing 737 models known as the NGs-Next Generation. The airline is already maintaining Bombardier Dash 8-300 aircraft.
On whether other airlines would patronise its maintenance facility, Sanusi said that the airlines would patronise the facility because they know that it cannot obtain approval if it is not qualified to carry out maintenance of the aircraft effectively.
â€œAviation is a highly regulated sector, so other airlines will bring their aircraft to us because they know that without approval we wonâ€™t be carrying out maintenance. C-check package has checklist, where everything to be done is written down and you must follow the checklist and anyone you completed is signed off,â€ Sanusi explained.
He noted that there is a lot to gain if Nigerian airlines could be maintaining their aircraft in Nigeria. One, it would save the money that would have been incurred as expenses ferrying the aircraft overseas; two, it would also save foreign exchange as every expenditure overseas is dominated in dollars and the airline which aircraft is under maintenance in Aero facility could come and inspect how the work is going on, a privilege the management might not have if the maintenance is being done overseas.
â€œIf the airlines have the capacity to supervise us that will be good. They will know that we are doing it according to international standards. We are already doing certain levels of maintenance for other airlines,â€ Sanusi said.
The Aero CEO also said that when he took over the management of the airline in February the management team reviewed the number of serviceable aircraft available and arrived at the first goal, which was how to stabilise the airline.
â€œWe agreed to go back to the core competences of the airline, which is oil and gas services for the helicopters. We have two helicopters now and the third one will be ready in July, 2017. We are doing a bid for major contract now and when we secure the bid we would have additional three helicopters to execute the contract with. Presently we have two Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft and one Boeing 737. Soon another Boeing 737 will be brought in from maintenance in France so we have two Boeing 737 aircraft, three Dash 8 and two helicopters,â€ Sanusi said.
Aero currently operates schedule flight services in addition to its oil and gas services. The Aero CEO said the airline operates from Lagos to Port Harcourt, Abuja, Warri, Asaba and Sokoto.
Sanusi said the airlines load factor has improved beyond expectation and has gone up to over 70 percent, noting that â€œit is amazing how the load factor grew from between 40-50 to upper 70s. This shows we are a good airline with five decades of experience and we have also improved our on-time performance.
On the workers that were laid off, Sanusi said the airline was yet to raise money to pay them disengagement entitlements but noted that some of the engineers who were laid off might be reabsorbed for the MRO.
Aero, which seemed to have gone off the radar of existence last year, has bounced back and with its MRO services, the airline may have more years to provide service to Nigerians.