Airline Operators Seek Aviation Policy To Address Challenges

planeAirline operators in Nigeria are urging the government to create a clear Aviation Policy that would raise the sector’s contribution to the GDP from 0.4% to 14% and create at least 10,000 direct and 100,000 indirect jobs by 2019.

Led by their Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison, to a meeting with the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, the operators proposed the conversion of Nigeria’s airport terminals into domestic terminals for all of West Africa, to bring business, revenue and create jobs.

The propositions are coming on the heels of appeals seeking the Minister’s intervention in the allocation of more foreign exchange to the operators, resumption of Jet-A-1 aviation fuel production in Nigeria, implementation of importation duty and tax waiver on imported aircraft parts and exemption from value added taxation among others.

The Minster assured the operators that all their challenges would be addressed, with domestic and foreign operators’ interests protected.

He further stressed that the greater advantage would go Nigerian operators, with navigation, communication, runways, terminal building and security listed as the priority areas.

Creating A Better Operating Environment In Aviation Sector

Aeroplane (2)That air transport moves people that are relevant to critical economic and political actions and decisions that ensure the existence of a nation is a statement of fact.

But here in Nigeria high indebtedness to banks, payment of multiple charges to various aviation agencies and the lack of maintenance facilities in the country are some of the challenges domestic airlines operators cite as factors that slow down their growth.

While they acknowledge that the recent airport upgrade has given a new face to air travel, they also ask for a better operating environment.

This edition of Aviation This Week, looks at the need for a better operating environment and the impact it will have on the activities of airliners in the sector.

The aviation sector in Nigeria is witnessing the re-modelling of airports across the nation and the Minister of Aviation, Mr Samuel Ortom, said that the reforms would continue to ensure safety of passengers.

Since the disappearance of the Malaysian M370 plane, international regulatory body is looking to track all airline across the globe.

They are looking to put in place a policy that will ensure that all airlines can identify their planes over oceans.

The 36 countries that belong to the governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation that suggest policies agreed to adopt a flight tracking policy.

Reps To Investigate Resumption of Dana Flight

The House of Representatives committee on aviation on Monday said it will look into the resumption of flights by Dana airline despite its recommendation that airline’s air operating certificate be revoked.

In a statement issued by the Chairman of the committee, Nkiruka Onyejeocha, the committee said all issues relating to the crash has not been resolved, including issues of compensation to victims, and air safety issues.

The committee said it is aware of the displeasure and concerns of Nigerians over the resumption of flights by Dana airline and appealed to Nigerians to be patient as the house of representatives is committed to the safety of the country ‘s airspace.

It would be recalled that Dana airline on 4 January 2013 resumed flights seven months, after one of its planes crashed near Lagos on 3 June, killing 163 passengers.

FG To Buy 30 New Planes To Cushion Airfares

The federal government says it would soon acquire 30 aircrafts to boost domestic airlines in Nigeria and to also cushion the high cost of air fares in airline business in Nigeria.

The General Manager, Corporate Communications, of the Ministry of Aviation, Yakubu Dati stated this in Benin City shortly after a tour to check the extent of remodelling and reconstruction work at the Airport in Benin City.

Answering questions on the safety of airplanes in Nigeria, Mr Dati said concerns in this area has led to removal of tariffs on aviation spare parts and that plans to purchase airplanes for the operators.

He said the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was bent on removing abandoned aircrafts across the country as it does not fit into the aviation Master Plan.

Explaining how the fund needed for the new aircraft would be sourced, Mr Dati said the federal government would purchase the airplanes through the aviation fund being managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bank of Industry (BoI) as direct disbursement of funds was being abused

“This is to help domestic airlines operate profitably and make it attractive for investors because spare parts are a major cost component in the aviation industry.”

He reiterated government’s commitment to making the country’s aviation industry a hub in the African continent. On abandoned planes across airports in the country, he said: “We have given the ultimatum for the owners of abandoned aircraft to remove them because they constitute menace to our airspace and airports.

“They are dangers to the flying publics because they may be places where these birds could hide. We have also discovered that some of the aircraft have litigation issues around them, some of them were used as collateral for loans.

“Such things are being handled by our legal department and as soon as those issues are resolved, the planes will be moved. We also try to advise owners that there are several creative ways in which they can use them. We are in the age of recycling and they are built with plastics and metals and that can be done profitably.

“But definitely, when the period we give elapses, FAAN will take action to ensure that we clear our spaces of abandoned aircraft because it does not fit into the aviation master-plan.”

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Our ‘Perfect’ Aviation System Is Killing Us – Ikponwosa

A pilot, Benson Ikponwosa on Monday said the problem with the Nigerian aviation industry is the perception that we have a perfect system while in the real sense the system is outdated.

Mr Ikponwosa, who was speaking as a guest on Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, said because our pilots think they are perfect, they die in ignorance.

“It could happen in those days that a perfectly normal pilot, who’s been flying on line, he goes for recurrent training. Suddenly, he fails in his ability to control the simulator if he was flying a twin engine airplane; he fails in his ability to control that airplane on one engine when the simulator simulate one engine situation for him.

“If he was flying a four engine airplane, he fails in his ability, if he was a first officer to fly that aeroplane on three engines or if he was a captain to fly it on two engines.

“When these things happen in those days, those pilots, what do the airlines do? They ground them until they are able to show that they can now handle the airplanes in those situations.”

Mr Ikponwosa said this is not the case nowadays where airlines recruit in-house trainers for their pilot because it was too expensive to send pilots out for training.

He said the problem with these in-house trainings is that “everybody passes” the test at the end of the recurrent training.

Crashed Dana plane could have run out of fuel – Pilot

A pilot and aviation expert, Benson Ikponwosa on Monday said the only plausible explanation to the recent Dana plane crash could be shortage of fuel.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Ikponwosa said a plane that left Abuja with its two engines intact could not have lost both engines if aircraft had adequate supply of fuel.

A Dana Airline plane, flight MD83 had in June crashed into two buildings at the Agege area of Lagos State killing all 153 passengers and crew on aboard.

Mr Ikponwosa, who was speaking against the backdrop of Saturday’s Helicopter crash which killed the former Kaduna State governor, Patrick Yakowa; former National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi and their aides, said ever since he became a pilot in 1977 no crash report in Nigeria have been made public.

Speaking on the doomed Dana plane, he said “up till now, you and I don’t know what made it go down. A lot of people say it lost two engines.

“Tell me how an air plane, who happily took off from Abuja, flew for about 55 minutes to Lagos. It didn’t lose two engines on the way until it got to Lagos. It is impossible. The only way those two engines could have packed up would have been if the guy ran out of fuel.”

He said if there was a lot of fuel in the air plane the fire that accompanied the crash would have been more than what it was.

Nigeria’s Air Traffic Control System Is Archaic – Pilot

A pilot and aviation expert, Benson Ikponwosa on Monday said among the many problems militating against the Nigerian aviation system is the old system of air traffic control.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Ikponwosa said as far as the government refuse to insist on adequate trainings for pilots ‘planes will continue to go down’ in Nigeria.

“When they tell Nigerians that now we have radar and radar coverage it is all hogwash,” he said.

Mr Ikponwosa, who was speaking against the backdrop of Saturday’s Helicopter crash which killed the former Kaduna State governor, Patrick Yakowa; former National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi and their aides, said the Nigerian air traffic control system is “still like when I went to school in 1977.”

The pilot gave an example of the outdated air traffic control system saying “a situation where for example a pilot needs to talk to an air traffic controller and between that pilot and the air traffic controller they happily spend 10 minutes; questions and answers, going back and forth.”

He said this is dangerous because there are so many planes in the air while the air traffic controller goes through his routine of asking irrelevant questions.

Mr Ikponwosa insisted that the only way out of these problems is training and retraining of aviation workers.

Reps to probe Aviation Minister’s refusal of landing rights to four airlines

The House of Representatives is to investigate the alleged refusal by the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah to grant four airlines landing rights at the Mallam Aminu Kano international airport, Kano.

In a motion of urgent national importance, Aliyu Madaki, said the despite applications made by the airlines, Ethiopian, Skyline, Turkish and Emirates airlines, Ms Oduah had refused permission.

The lawmakers resolved that its committee on aviation should investigate the matter and report its findings back to the house in four weeks’ time.

Senate considers barring public officials from foreign airlines

The Senate Committee on Aviation has ordered the British Airways and the Virgin Atlantic Airways to pay a fine of $135 million and $100 million respectively for conspiring to fix prices at the expense of Nigeria, operating a duopoly to the detriment of other airlines and engaging in the passenger fuel surcharge scam.

The committee, in its report on the violation of aviation laws and practice by foreign airlines and lapses in the operations of regulatory agencies, on Tuesday ordered the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to work with the Ministry of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to compel both airlines to pay the fines in line with the Civil Aviation Act 2006.

Presenting the report, the Chairman of the Committee, Hope Uzodinma said both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways were found guilty of the offences.

It also recommended that government officials travelling abroad should mandatorily use Nigerian flag carriers and charged the Aviation Ministry to work with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to enlighten the public on the imperative of flying national flag carriers.

The committee also recommended that the Aviation Ministry be engaged on its plan to float an indigenous national carrier, saying “Arik Airline with over 26 new aircrafts in their fleet and any other local airline with similar capacity which must have operated in Nigeria for a minimum of five years should be granted national flag carrier status”.

The proposal to grant Arik airline the national flag carrier status did not go down well with some lawmakers who argued that the Federal government should rather build its own airline.

The Senate President, David Mark queried the regulatory agencies for failing to protect Nigerians from the exploitation of foreign airlines.

“We need to do our homework before blaming the airlines. Nigerians expect us to protect them. Let nobody exploit Nigerians. The British Airways and the Virgin Atlantic Airways have exploited Nigerians. The regulatory agencies are the problems. They’ve failed in what they’re supposed to do. As weak as the laws are, they are not being implemented. We’ve problems with implementing the laws we put in place,” he said.

Some lawmakers argue that the committee’s report does not address the mandate given to the committee.

The senate resolved to consider the recommendations on another legislative day.

IRS airplane collides with truck at Lagos airport

A Kano-bound IRS Airlines plane departing the Lagos airport on Wednesday morning collided with an abandoned truck beside the taxiway, forcing the pilot to cancel the flight.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN)’s sewage tanker was on official assignment when it got stuck after fallen into drainage at about 8.30pm on Tuesday night in the taxiway of General Aviation Terminal (GAT), Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos caused a minor damage to the aircraft.

The aircraft, a Folker 100, was scheduled to operate flight LVB 3306 out of Lagos to Kano flight with a transit stop at Abuja.

Information from the Airports Authority and the airline said no passenger or crew member on board the aircraft sustain any injury.
A statement by the Managing Director of IRS, Yemi Dada, confirmed the incident.

The statement quoted Mr Dada as saying “This morning our flight LVB 3306 taxied out on a Lagos to Kano flight with a transit stop at Abuja. The aircraft taxied out at 7:48am with 91 passengers. While taxing on the taxi way the Captain observed a FAAN truck in a ditch. There were no marshals around it neither was there any marking to indicate that it encroached into the taxi way. There was no Notice To Air Men (NOTAM) issued to that effect as well.”

He added, “The captain continued on his taxi and the wing tip hit a protrusion from the truck towards the rear of the truck. This made the captain request a return to ramp from the tower and also notify the tower of the incident and the danger posed by the truck.

“The passengers were disembarked and accommodated in another aircraft which departed Lagos at 10:15am. The incident has been reported to Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and we await the clearance of the NCAA to effect repairs and return the aircraft to service.”

The General Manager Corporate Communications, FAAN, Yakubu Dati who also confirmed the incident said it had been reported to relevant aviation agencies, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) whose officials immediately reported to the scene of the incident for on-the-spot assessment of the incident while engineers from Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria were placed on stand-by to evacuate the stuck sewage tanker as soon as preliminary investigations by both agencies concluded.

Arik resumes domestic flights

Arik Air on Saturday resumed domestic operation following an emergency meeting convened by the Federal Government to resolve the dispute between the airline company, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Ministry of Aviation.

The meeting was chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim and had in attendance the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Hope Uzodinma and the Chairperson, House Committee on Aviation, Nkeiruka Onyejoacha.

Briefing journalist at the end of the meeting, Mr Anyim said the meeting lasted for about two hours and that all issues in contention were discussed and resolved.

“A roadmap for smooth working together for both parties was also agreed upon,” he said.

He further said “We use the opportunity to appeal to both parties to ensue every provocation that may have arisen as a result of this unfortunate misunderstanding. Accordingly, all the exchange of accusation and allegations are of no consequence.

“On behalf of the Ministry of Aviation and the management of Arik Air, we apologise to all travellers for the inconvenience this unfortunate misunderstanding may have caused them.

“We are therefore pleased to announce that Arik Air can now resume operations,” Mr Anyim said.

Arik air and the aviation agencies were in disagreement over an alleged N7 billion debt being money owed the airport authority by the airliner.

Aviation Minister denies demanding 5 percent equity from Arik Air

The Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah on Friday denied the allegations of demanding five percent equity from the management of Arik Air.

In a press statement released by Joe Obi, the Special Adviser to the Aviation Minister, Ms Oduah said the allegations “is absurd, malicious and ultimately laughable.”

The Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah

The Vice-Chairman of Arik Air, Aniete Okon, while addressing journalists in Lagos on Thursday had said that the airline is being punished for its refusal to accede to the personal interest of Ms Oduah.

“This is a direct result to the rebuff that the minister suffered when she tried to promote personal rather than national interest,” Mr Okon had said.

An online newspaper, PREMIUM TIMES reportedly quoted a source as specifically saying that “the Minister wants 5 percent share of Arik at all cost, which has been resisted by the Arik Chairman.”

Ms Oduah however said her “first impulse is to totally ignore this groundless falsehood. Except that it will send the wrong signals to the general public.”

In the statement, the Minister’s aide said the “5 percent equity story is without any foundation whatsoever.

“The Honorable Minister of Aviation could not have contemplated acquiring a stake in any airline, let alone Arik Air that is groaning from a crippling N85.4 billion debt overhang.

“The time is ripe for Arik Air to change its business module that ‘thrives’ on unprecedented accumulation of debts and liabilities. The futile attempt to impugn the integrity of the Aviation Minister by inferring a conflict of interest against her is at best diversionary. It should be obvious to the management of Arik Air that blackmail is not a panacea for a floundering enterprise,” the statement reads.

Mr Obi said the Minister has directed her lawyers to seek legal redress over the allegation by the management of Arik Air.