Domestic Airlines May Face Aircraft Maintenance Challenge Post COVID-19

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Chinedu Eze

Industry experts have expressed fear that domestic airlines may face aircraft maintenance challenge on resumption after the COVID-19 pandemic that forced them to halt their operations.

THISDAY learnt that some of the existing aircraft, many of which are currently grounded would be due for their calendar checks in April and May.

Although it had been projected that the current sit at home order aimed at averting the spread of the COVID-19 may last for about four weeks, analysts believe that aircraft not well stored during this period may be corroded and damaged when flight operations resumes.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had advised airlines on how to keep their aircraft safe and protected while the lockdown is still on and urged them to abide by the calendar maintenance of their aircraft.

In other words, airline operators and other aircraft owners should abide by given regulations in protecting their aircraft while not in operation.

NCAA directed all airlines and other aircraft owners to put their aircraft under short-term or long-term storage or they would be maintained in accordance to the aircraft maintenance programme during the period the aircraft would be out of service.

“Prior to returning to service, any aircraft that is under short term or short term storage or under an approved maintenance programme, all aircraft operator/owners are to ensure that all storage/preservative maintenance requirements are carried out on the aircraft/ aircraft components at regular intervals and in accordance with the procedures stated in the aircraft maintenance manuals/approved maintenance programme/manufacturer’s technical document,” NCAA said.

Aircraft engineer and former Director General of NCAA, Benedict Adeyileka, told THISDAY that if airlines do not abide by the rules in storing their aircraft while not in operation, the engines and other sensitive parts may corrode and the aircraft would become damaged.
He also advised that airlines should not do long term storage because of corrosion; rather, they should be kept in short storage and be warmed regularly.

“The biggest problem in long term storage is that by the time you are ready to use them you see that they have stopped working. They will be corroded. You will have to rotate the tyres regularly to avoid flat stop, which damages the tyres.

“So you have to roll the tyres at least every week so that the aircraft, which is usually heavy does not rest on one area of the tyre for a long time. The manual will ask you to rotate the tyres once a week.

“You also have to protect the screen and the dashboard of the aircraft with cardboard or foil so that they would be in good standard when you want to resume operation.”

Adeyileka, also noted that despite the storage, airlines were also expected to maintain their aircraft that are due for maintenance, according to scheduled calendar checks.

Calendar checks in accordance to NCAA regulations stipulate that commercial aircraft are taken out for C-check after every 18 months and it is expected that every aircraft due for maintenance under COVID-19 lockdown must be maintained.

However, industry insiders have observed that because most of this maintenance is conducted overseas, it would be difficult for Nigerian carriers to ferry their aircraft overseas when most part of the globe is on lockdown.

They also noted that on resumption of flights, Nigerian carriers would also have to queue in the overseas Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities for checks.