Operators Harp on Local Aircraft Maintenance Facility

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Chinedu Eze

Aviation experts have called the attention of the federal government and warned that Nigerian airlines may continue to have short lifespan of an average of 10 years, unless a comprehensive maintenance, overhaul and repair facility (MRO) is built in the country.

They posited that the cost of major aircraft maintenance, which is largely done overseas, was responsible for the failure of many Nigerian carriers in the past.

Airline operators said they spend about $2 billion a year on the maintaining of their aircraft overseas.
But if there is MRO facility in Nigeria and the airlines maintain their aircraft locally, it would cost about half of the aforementioned and would also lead to the training of skilled indigenous manpower.

In addition, this would also cut back on foreign exchange, as airlines would pay for their maintenance in local currency, the industry experts said.

The former Chief Operating Officer of Medview Airline and currently the Director of Engineering, Ibom Air, Lukeman Animaseun, told THISDAY that the major cause of the failure for many Nigerian airlines in the past was partly the inability of those carriers to fund the cost of overseas maintenance of their aircraft.

He noted that airlines that took their aircraft overseas had to wait for maintenance slot and while waiting, loss passenger revenue, as the equipment would not be operation for that period.

“I commend the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for giving Aero Contractors the certification to conduct C-checks on aircraft, including Boeing B737 Classics.

“I know that Aero is yet to get approval to conduct heavy checks on Boeing, but what they are doing is very important because it has saved airlines.

“For example, recently Aero Conducted C-Check on three aircraft owned by Max Air. If the airline had taken the aircraft overseas it would have marked the end of operation for the domestic carrier because of the huge cost and the fact that it would take a longer time, which would have affected its operation.”

“So this is a plus for NCAA, for Aero and for the federal government. Government should encourage Aero by providing it bigger equipment and training of personnel so that it can be certified to conduct D-checks and also train personnel.

“Aero also conducted C-check on Medview aircraft; that what remains now is the replacement of the engine, which if done today, the aircraft will start flying. The cost of ferrying aircraft overseas is high and that is saved when you maintain aircraft locally,” Animaseun added.

He advised the federal government to deploy more funds to Aero and expand its maintenance facility, since the airlines is currently under the management of the government.

“Government should pump money into Aero to expand its hangar. If more airlines maintain their aircraft locally it would save them dollars and also save a lot of airlines from going down. So what we need from government is the political will; not the money,” Animaseun said.

He also disclosed that the maintenance facility in Uyo, which was being built by the Akwa Ibom state government, has reached advanced stage and would be completed in the next six months.

“The Akwa Ibom state government is doing everything possible to complete the facility, at most, in the first quarter of next year. The maintenance hangar there can take in three Boeing B747, but they want to make the place the maintenance hub of CRJ aircraft in West Africa.

“So when it is completed, Nigeria carriers would not have any choice than to maintain their aircraft there.

“I know that local pride is sometimes the problem of some Nigerian airlines owners. Some will say that they won’t maintain their aircraft locally but such cannot happen now. The industry revolves around foreign currency; as the money comes in, it is also going out for maintenance and spares, but with local maintenance facility, some of the money will be retained,” Animaseun added.