By Daniel Eteghe
With the long struggle and doggedness by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, in the pursuance of a well improved safety standards in the aviation industry over the last three years, Nigeria finally attained the US Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, Cat1 status.
The regulatory agency had gone through rigorous stages of audit, culminating in the eight critical elements, which gave rise to the mock audit that was successfully conducted on the aviation industry.
Nigeria was rated as a Cat 1 status country last month in Abuja, as the out-going US Ambassador , Robin Renee Sanders handed over the FAA Cat 1 certificate to the Director General of NCAA, Dr Harold Demuren, at a short but colourful ceremony in Abuja. The announcement by the outgoing ambassador immediately turned the atmosphere into that of jubilation by stakeholders in the industry that were present on the occasion.
Experts note that Cat 1 status would not only contribute immensely to development of the aviation sector but also improve the economic growth of the country as well as create a greater social networking between Nigeria and other countries of the world.
Speaking on the significance of CAT1 status to Nigeria’s aviation sector, a senior pilot with Aerocontractors of Nigeria, Capt. Patrick Ogunlowo, said the attainment of the status has greatly improved the rate with which other countries of the world would look at the aviation industry in Nigeria .He noted that attaining had shown that the industry in Nigeria was safe and secure, stressing that the status would further boost the security and safety level in the nation’s airspace and in the industry generally.
“With the attainment of CAT1 status, it means that we are as good as any other aviation industry in the western world in terms of safety and security wise,“ Ogunlowo said.
He affirmed that the attainment of CAT1 has helped Nigeria a lot, as country’s airlines would now be able to fly not just only to London and other African countries but also directly to the United States of America .
Captain Ogunlowo challenged Arik Air to seize the opportunity of Cat 1 to make alliances with other reputable airlines in the US, so it could distribute their passengers across the states and not just flying from Nigeria to New York . He also noted that the attainment of Cat 1 would greatly help the Nigerian aviation industry to assist the economy in reducing capital flights in the country.
In terms of its economic benefits, Captain Ogunlowo said the attainment would make it convenient for passengers to fly directly to the US with a Nigerian airline without the necessary connecting flights to Europe, noting that would greatly reduce the cost of flying directly to the US .
“Since Arik has been given the go ahead to fly directly to the US and what that does economically is that it will make the concentration of Capital flights to be with Nigerian airlines and as Arik has the capacity to go to the United States of America, I believe that they should be well encouraged to provide such services and equally improved frequencies“ he stated.
He also noted that another economic significance of Cat 1 to the Nigerian economy was that it would boost cargo operations in and out of Nigeria . He said with Cat 1, many airlines and cargo operators would be in operation in country as well as make Nigeria to be categorized as a leasing country.
He further pointed out that with the cargo operations in place, there would be an increase in the volume of trade in terms of import and export. He said that the American market would be open to our own export while ours will be open to their own imports.
Reviewing the situation, Assistant Secretary General of Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, Alhaji Mohammed Tukur also noted that one of the economic significance of attaining Cat1 was that there would be a great boost in foreign investment in Nigeria, stressing that with Cat 1, other countries of the world could easily do business with Nigeria by leasing their aircraft to local airlines, since Nigeria would no longer be regarded as an environment that is characterized as a high risk country.
Alhaji Tukur further added that the CAT1 status would enable Nigeria to acquire new aircrafts as this would go a long way in boosting the revenue that would be accruing to the aviation industry in Nigeria . He also said that it would contribute in reducing the insurance premium of aircrafts that fly in Nigerian airspace and also across the country.
Also speaking on the development, Chief Executive Officer of IRS Airlines, Mr Isiaku Rabiu, explained that the attainment of Cat 1 would help greatly to reduce the cost of aircraft leasing, adding that it would also bring down insurance cost as well as encourage investors to put their money in the aviation sector to in Nigeria .
“It will encourage investors especially in the aviation sector to invest in the Nigeria because this categorization puts you in a different group of players across the globe so that is a very good thing and for every Nigerian that is patriotic should be happy about it,“ he said.
He said that the attainment would further enable the Nigeria aviation industry to be more conscious in monitoring its airline operators in terms of operational standards, safety standards, maintenance standards, security standards and other regulations that are necessary for a safe operation.
Also speaking on the issue, Vice President of Arik Air, Mr Chris Ndulue, affirmed that there are a lot of benefits that would be derived from status, saying it would make other airlines work with the aviation sector in Nigeria .
Ndulue, who also noted that insurance cost would be reduced greatly as a result, said Cat 1 would contribute to a cost reduction in Arik’s ticket to the US . He also noted that CAT1 would further enable aircraft manufacturers to lease airplane to Nigeria airlines operators at a cheaper rate.
The Arik boss affirmed that the status would contribute immensely to the aviation sector in terms of training of its personnel and acquisition of infrastructures that would further boost the standard of the airport.
He said that the attainment of CAT1 would enable Nigerian pilots who would have to go on training to upgrade their experience in the world of flying as this would bring about safety, convenient and comfort during any flight operation.
He added that one major economic significant of CAT1 to Nigeria aviation industry was that it would boost the commercial activities of airline operators in the country.
Mr. Ndulue explained that the rate of flights operations to the US would be increase as this would create a lot of revenue to the airline as well as add greatly to the economy of Nigeria .
“Arik is currently operating within 150 flights on a daily basis but with the attainment of the US,FAA, CAT1 status, we can do more flights operations within and across other countries of the world as this will be a good business to the airline“ he stressed.
It is believed that the just attained CAT1 status would boost the security of the nation’s airspace and also guaranty the safety of the passengers as well as improve the comfort of their flights in the aviation industry.
Some experts have, however, warned that the euphoria that greeted Nigeria’s certification might fizzle out sooner than later, if practical steps were not taken to sustain the tempo in regulation of the industry.
To avert the Mexican experience, the experts said the NCAA would have to do as much work as it did preparing the country for the certification to sustain the status. Mexico only recently lost out of the premier league of aviation nations of the world due to inadequate oversight requirements, ranging from insufficient inspectors to a gap in economic regulation of airlines.