December 8, 2016

Aircraft pilots, engineers to float new airline – Balami

Abuja – Mr Isaac Balami, President, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), says the association is considering floating its airline to address the challenge of unemployment among its members.

Balami made this known on Thursday in Abuja.

He said the national executive of the association had constituted a committee with the aim of setting up a carrier as the members were the ones flying and maintaining the aircraft.

According to him, what is happening is that, we have lost confidence in most of the employers within the industry, even though; some of them are trying their best.

“Some are doing very well, but I think since we are the ones that fly and maintain these aircraft, the national leadership of NAAPE has given me the mandate to set up a committee.

“We might float our own airline very soon so that we can engage ourselves, maintain our selves and operate because we cannot continue like this, this is the only industry we know.

“We have been doing a lot of work so that we can come up with our own airline because we believe we cannot be held hostage in our own industry.

“There are airlines that have not paid us for the past five to six months because the money that the airlines are making cannot run the airline.’’

Balami, however, called on the Federal Government to create an enabling environment for the airlines to flourish and in turn create jobs for the industry and boost the economy.

He said that the government had not been giving support to the industry to enable Nigerian airlines to compete favourably with their international competitors.

According to him, until the government wakes up and do the needful, create the enabling environment, even if you float a new national carrier with 200 brand new aircraft, it will go down.

“The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) confirms that refineries at Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt can produce aviation fuel at N50 per litre but currently, we are paying N200.

“ Before Aero went down, it was flying seven aircraft with eight million tons of fuel every month and if we were getting fuel at N50 as against N200 per litre, Aero would not have gone down.

“It is the government’s responsibility to stimulate the economy, create jobs and support the airlines so that they would continue to fly passengers across.’’

The NAAPE president said that the nation’s aviation industry had recorded tremendous progress in spite of the many challenges facing the sector.

He applauded all the aviation agencies over the Category One recertification of the nation’s airports, saying that countries like India and Pakistan had lost their Category One Certification.

According to him, Nigeria is able to score over 90 per cent in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit even in the face of funding and others challenges.

“All I am saying is that, we also need the support of the government for the operators so that everybody can play his or her part in moving the sector forward and compete globally,’’ he said.

On the face-off between the union and Bristow Helicopter over the sack of its members, Balami said the airline was expected to recall all the 21 sacked staff before weekend.

He explained that the union would still shot down the operation of the company if it failed to recall its members.