By UDEME CLEMENT
The Federal Government has been advised to revisit the issue of building a modern maintenance hangar for airlines to carry out major checks within the country instead of flying abroad to incur huge over-head costs.
Government was also asked to take full charge of importation and distribution of aviation fuel, technically known as Jet A-1, which is a specialised commodity, to prevent any form of contamination.
A former regional manager of Chanchangi Airline, Alhaji Bello Ahmed Alkali, gave this advice, saying that one of the major problems facing local carriers today is maintenance of aircraft. “Aside from A and B checks, other checks are done abroad. This tells so much on the over-head costs of the airlines, because they need to fly their airplanes outside the country for major maintenance. In the process, they maintain the personnel staying with the airplanes over there. These expenditures could be curtailed if we have a maintenance hangar capable of handling C and other heavier checks in Nigeria ”, Alkali, also the director of operations, Trade Craft, added.
He continued, “It is on record that few years back, a one-time aviation minister was at the point of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with one of the biggest carriers in the world to build a modern maintenance hangar in Nigeria , but the project was stepped down due to sudden change in government’s policy. I am appealing to government to revisit that issue with the seriousness it deserves. I believe with the interest of the present government in the sector, we can have such hangar built within six months in Nigeria .”
On what must be done to ensure immediate acquisition of modern airplanes to satisfy the demand of passengers, he said, “the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), as a regulatory body, is in charge of technical as well as economic aspects of regulation. It should advise government and make recommendation for operators to be assisted in getting new airplanes, like the 737-800 and 700 series. Notwithstanding, accident can still happen with new airplanes, but with modern airplanes, the passengers will be free to travel by air”.
On what government has been doing to grow the sector, he said:” Government is re-modelling the airports, which had never been done over 20 years now. The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has been repositioned to Category-One position in the world with modern equipment installed in all our airports, thereby giving pilots easy flight from destination A to B.
The Nigerian Metrological Agency (NIMET) is also fully repositioned to compete globally by giving weather reports not only to airports and pilots, seaports and captains of ships, but also environment weather hazards warnings. We have first class NCAA in place with professionals who underwent rigorous evaluation to earn Nigeria Category-One certification. The Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) is well funded with full capacity to train pilots, engineers, dispatchers, cabin crew and other aviation workers. With these in place, Nigeria will soon have qualified professionals to handle the industry effectively.
After the Dana crash, passengers are afraid to fly. This may not be unconnected with comments made by people about the accident. That is why people ought to have waited for the outcome of the investigations before casting-aspersion. I can assure the public that the industry is fully regulated by the NCAA to ensure that all carriers maintain their airplanes according to standards, and the safest way to travel is by air.”