ANTHONY AWUNOR writes on how using local content in the aviation sector can help solve the problem of capital flight and ensure better deal for African Airlines.
In airline operations, safety is taken very seriously and that is why maintainance top the agenda of all the successful airlines. However, in aircraft maintenance, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) is key to smooth operations and the services may include inspection, rebuilding, alteration and the supply of spare parts, accessories, raw materials, adhesives, sealants, coatings and consumables for aircraft manufacturing and MRO..
Recently, Aero Contractors, one of the oldest airlines in Nigeria made the boldest move in aviation development by conducting a C-check on one of its Boeing 737-500. The successful C-Check maintenance was well celebrated by stakeholders across the sector coming over 15 years after similar checks were carried out by the defunct Nigeria Airways.
A C-check is a detailed maintenance check where the entire component of an aircraft is inspected for the purpose of repair and maintenance. It is heavier than A and B checks and can take up to three weeks to conduct a C-check and require up to 6,000 man-hours.
With the maintenance cost of about $2 million to $3 million approximately depending on aircraft type and condition for a Boeing aircraft, it is expected that about 30 Boeing aircraft operating in the country would gulp over $90 million per each C-Check undertaken.
With the establishment of Aero Contractors maintainance facility, experts have said that it will save the local airlines huge sums of money.
Speaking at the successful roll out of Aero’s Boeing 737-500 which undergone C-Check in their Nigerian facility, Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika who commended Aero said that, with the new initiative, Nigeria will save huge sums of money hitherto, spent in doing C-Check overseas.
Sirika said “Nigeria experienced huge capital flight of nothing less than $1.8m and $3m per Boeing aircraft that left our shores for C-Checks and there are more than 30 of such aircraft operating in the country. All that is about to and is changing with this initiative birthed by Aero”.
The Minister who was represented by the Commissioner For Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Engr Akin Olateru described Aero achievement as phenomenal and significant, adding that it would be for the benefit of all Nigerian airlines.
Speaking further, Sirika applauded the expertise, competence, industry of AMCOM and the Receiver Manager for a job well done in the turnaround programme to making the airline take back its pride of place in the industry.
He equally advised airlines and aviation related companies to henceforth establish and devote resources into creating Research and Development (R&D) units in their organisations.
In his welcome address, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi said the achievement is as a result of good policies, smart management, effective oversight and professional dedication by staff.
Commending the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika for his encouragement, Capt Sanusi said Sirika’s support set the pace towards concerted efforts of ensuring that Aero sustained operations so as to serve the public and keep staff employed.
Many aviation experts that attended the official roll out of the Boeing 737-500 which undergone C-Check at Aero facility believed that the airline wouldn’t have achieved that feat without AMCON.
Since AMCON took over in February 2016, the airline has gradually metamorphosed into a better organisation,heading to profitability.
Recall AMCON came on board barely a month the airline disembarked passengers with a ladder in Bauchi State.
After the incident, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) imposed an “applicable sanction” on the airliner in line with Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs)
In appreciation of the rapid turnaround, Sanusi said “The management of AMCON deserves special accolades as well. AMCON plays and continues to play critical roles that have culminated with Aero being able to sustain its operations and slowly returning to viability. Without the support of AMCON, some tough decisions would have never been taken and we wouldn’t have gathered here today”.
While commending the Receiver Manager of Aero, Mr Adeniyi Adegbonmire, Sanusi also applauded the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA, Capt Usman Mukhar for certifying Aero suitable for conducting Boeing Aircraft C- Check in Nigeria.
Speaking in the same vein, Managing Director, Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Ahmed Kuru, said the certification given by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to Aero Contractors to conduct C-checks on Boeing 737-500 series in the country would galvanize a boom in the aviation industry.
Kuru also stressed that it cost about $1.8million to $2million to conduct C-check outside the country, noting that such feat would save millions of dollars that Nigerian Airlines would have spent on maintenance abroad.
He said: “I would like to solicit the support for Aero MRO by all stakeholders particularly the relevant aviation regulatory bodies, towards ensuring that this seed that has been planted is allowed to grow, in our collective interest as Nigerians.”
“We cannot continue to allow capital flight of our scarce foreign exchange towards paying for services that are available in Nigeria and would provide a source of employment for our people. I would like to direct other airlines to use this facility as such would enable Aero MRO to grow towards conducting maintenance for other aircraft types”
He, therefore, urged the NCAA to issue a directive to Nigerian airlines to make use of the facility in carrying out their C-Checks as a way of addressing the problem of capital flight.
Amongst the business circles, it is also believed that the initiative of local airline maintenance facility falls within the purview of the Executive Order issued last year by the Presidency to allow ease of doing business across the country. This is more so as it is expected that patronising Aero’s facility in Nigeria will offer a quicker aircraft turnaround time. Emphasising on such deliverables, Sanusi pointed it out, when he said “permit me mention here that this certification of Aero to conduct C – Checks in Nigeria seamlessly dovetails into the” Ease of Doing Business policy of the present administration.
Corroborating Sanusi’s standpoint, Sirika had equally assured earlier that “It would ease business process for their major maintenance checks; drastically reduce maintenance cost while optimising their cost because of the benefit of making a major part of the maintenance service fees in Naira and also reduce aircraft maintenance downtime and create job opportunities for our teeming workforce amongst several other benefits”.
Commending Aero’s bold move, Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman, assured airline operators that the facility went through a rigorous audit and that the C-Check was of international standards
Former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren, said maintenance was a major problem for airlines due to its cost.
Assuring that most local airlines will benefit from the initiative, Demuren said “Maintenance is done in dollars, while the airlines sell tickets in naira. This is killing the airlines. The success recorded by Aero with the establishment of this MRO and successful completion of a C-check must continue”.
A former President of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Isaac Balami, said airlines in the West African sub-region were spending at least $1bn yearly on the maintenance of aircraft in Europe and America.
He said Aero’s MRO facility would help to curb capital flight in that area of operations.
In his goodwill message, Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) , Sir Nogie Meggison commended Aero just as he assured that the new development would assist airline operators in the country.