- We are currently working assiduously on fleet expansion, says airlineÂ
By Chinedu Eze
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has suspended the Air Operatorâ€™s Certificate (AOC) of First Nation Airways indefinitely.
The agency notified the airline about the suspension in a letter with reference number NCAA/DG/CSLA/RM/1-06/18/2304 dated May 11, 2018, andÂ signed by the Director General of the agency, Captain Muhtar Usman,
The spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, said the letter titled: â€˜Notice of Suspnsion of Air Operators Certificateâ€™ was delivered to the airline on the above date and receipt acknowledged by the domestic operator.
NCAA said the suspension was sequel to the flagrant and continuous violation of the terms and conditions of issuance of AOC by the airline, thereby carrying out unauthorised and illegal operations.
The letter revealed that when the AOC of First Nation Airways expired, the airline did not have at least two airworthy aircraft capable of servicing itsÂ approved schedule as minimum number required by Part 22.214.171.124(b)(2) (ii) of Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation (Nig.CARS) 2015.
â€œConsequently, the airlineâ€™s Air Operators Certificate was, upon renewal, restricted to non-scheduled operation, (charter) only.
â€œHowever, First Nation Airways embarked on scheduled operations with continuous advertisement of its services and sold tickets at its check-in counters in Lagos and Abuja airports,â€ the regulatory agencyÂ explained in a statement.
NCAA said it had earlier notified the airline that it was investigating these violations and subsequently, by a letter dated August 31, 2017, the airline was directed to stop the illegal operations forthwith, warning that failure to desist would lead to a suspension of its operating authorisation.
â€œOn further investigation, it was discovered that the airline had disregarded all warnings and continued with the unauthorised and illegal operations in violation of its AOC terms and conditions of issuance.
â€œThis is contrary to the provisions of Part 126.96.36.199(d) of the Nig.CARS 2015 which provides that: â€œeach AOC holder shall at all times, continue in compliance with the AOC terms and conditions of issuance, and maintenance requirements in order to hold that certificate,â€ NCAA further noted.
NCAA said it had determined that pursuant to Section 35(2),(3) (a) (ii) and (4) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, First Nation Airways is no longer fit to operate air transport business under the authority of the AOC.
â€œAccordingly, the airlineâ€™s AOC has been suspended indefinitely, with effect from the May 11, 2018, when it received the notice.
â€œIn addition, the operators of the airline are expected to return the AOC to the authorityâ€™s Director of Operations and Training within seven days of receiving the letter,â€ the agency said.
However, it noted that anytime the airline demonstrates the ability and willingness to comply with the extant regulations, the authority â€œshall review the airlineâ€™s operations and restore the AOC to enable it commence operations.
â€œThe NCAA wishes to restate its zero tolerance for violations of the Nig.CARS and shall continue to enforce compliance through application of appropriate sanctions for any infractions,â€ the regulatory authority added.
Meanwhile, THISDAY made telephone calls to the management of the airline but no response.
Reacting to its suspension, FirstNation said in as much asÂ it does not want to join issues with NCAA, it is currently working assiduously on fleet expansion and confident that it would grow its fleet this year. In a statement signed by Rasheed Yusuff,Â the airline said: â€œWe are reluctant to join issues, in the media with NCAA, as we believe that Regulation through media sensationalism will ultimately not serve the industry well.Â Except to reiterate that we respect regulations and have immediately complied with NCAAâ€™s directive. It is also a matter of fact, that we presented two airworthy aircraft, to the Authority as far back as September 2017. It is therefore apparent that the context of our operation vis-a-vis compliance with the extant regulations and governmentâ€™s policy Â have been misconstrued.Â
â€œBe that as it may, we will seek reconsideration and review of the suspension, in the light of facts that will be made available to the authorities. And will cooperate with NCAA in good faith, to address all concerns and the alleged infractions to reach resolution.
â€œIt is pertinent to add that the allegations are not safety related and that our operation achieved above industry dispatch reliability of over 95% and reputed for on time performance and schedule integrity.Â The operating aircraft and crew hold the relevant, safety critical approvals and authorisations.
â€œThe basis of NCAAâ€™s decision is therefore Â apparently Â commercial. And in an Industry facing worsening Aircraft capacity constraints, the authority should be forward looking and working with industry to facilitate policies that will endear industry growth, so as not to further limit and Â compromise passengersâ€™ choice options across all segments. The national interest has not been served by this development.Â
Â â€œWe remain committed to the highest level of safety standard in line with industry best practise. Firstnation is currently working assiduously on fleet expansion and confident that we will grow our fleet this year, 2018.â€