By Chinedu Eze
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has announced that a five-man appeal panel has upheld and reaffirmed the civil sanctions imposed on First Nation Airways and one of its pilots by the agency over infractions for which the airline was penalised N33.5 million.
Â NCAA made this known yesterday in a statement signed by its spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, and said the upholding of the sanction was contained in the report submitted by the panel to the regulatory authority at the conclusion of the sitting.
The agency explained that First Nation Airways had earlier filed an appeal following a Letter of Sanction written to the airline on January 23, 2017, and recalled that violations were detected during a ramp inspection on the airlineâ€™s aircraft, Airbus A319 with registration mark 5N-FNE, on November 8, 2016, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
Â â€œAfter the exercise, it was discovered that the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) was not in possession of a current medical certificate. In addition, the airline similarly the Pilot was added on the roster to carry out operational flights when obviously his medical certificate had expired.
â€œTherefore, the airline and the pilot violated Parts 126.96.36.199(a), 188.8.131.52(1), 184.108.40.206(a) (1) and 220.127.116.11(a) (24) of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (NigCARs) 2015. Consequently, in accordance with IS 1.3.3. (1)(14) of the NigCARs 2015,the airline and pilot were fined N32 million and N1.5 million respectively being moderate civil penalty for the violation,â€ the statement said.
Â The agency noted that the airline swiftly filed an appeal in disagreement with the reported violations and sanctions and NCAA in a bid to be fair constituted an appeal committee to hear the airlines appeal.
According to the statement, â€œThe five-man appeal panel had three airline operators, a private legal luminary and NCAA officials as observers. First Nation Airways was represented by four Lawyers, the pilot and three management staff. After four days of sitting, submissions and deliberations the panel upheld and reiterated the applicable sanctions meted out to the airline and its pilot.
Â â€œIt arrived at the following conclusions in agreement with the NCAA findings prelude to the application of sanctions. The ATRL 1874 License of the Pilot in Command of First Nation Airways had expired on November 2, 2016. The PIC was not in possession of the licence during the ramp inspection on November 8, 2016. The PIC did not have a valid licence and was not properly certified from November 2 to 8, 2016.â€
It also remarked that the PIC operated 15 flights and the airline added him on the roaster 16 times.
â€œThe PIC operated with expired licence from November 2 to 8, 2016, and there are all indications that the airline knew the PIC did not have a valid licence. This is a very serious safety issue, therefore, the moderate sanctions applied by the NCAA were reasonable under the circumstances. The PICâ€™s argument that he had a valid licence when he operated the flights is incorrect, as he had no valid medical certificate,â€ NCAA also said.
Â The agency remarked that the PIC had 14 days according to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs) to apply before the expiration of the licence. However, he did not apply until November 3, 2016, after the expiration.
â€œThe invoice was issued by NCAA on the November 3, 2016. The pilot did not do the Cardiac Risk Assessment (CRA) test mandatory for his 62 years of age even after he was informed by NCAA, the Authorised Aviation Medical Examiner (AAME). He did the medical assessment eventually.Â The CRA report was dated November 7, 2016, and was sent to NCAA on November 8, 2016. Therefore, the accusation of delay and inefficiency by the Authority is wrong and unfounded. The PIC and the airline did not follow laid down procedure.
â€œNCAA received the medical report same day, reviewed it and issued the medical certificate same day on November 8, 2016. The panel hereby dismissed all grounds of appeal and upholds the NCAAâ€™s Letters of Sanctions in respect of First Nation Airways and its pilot,â€ the agency added.