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•Nigeria among countries with many grounded aircraft

By Prince Okafor

On 10, 2008, Dana airlines started commercial operations in Nigeria with McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft with 140 seats, 12 business and 128 economy class tickets.

The airline is owned by Nigerian conglomerate, DANA Group, and operated scheduled domestic and executive charter services.

The company prides on providing affordable regional air transport services, quality and service excellence.

At the moment, the airline with eight aircraft is flying to a range of 20 domestic destinations such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Uyo, using its fleet of Boeing McDonnell 83 and Boeing B737-300 airplanes.

In addition to the scheduled flight operations, Dana Air also offers Executive Charter Services using a brand new Bombardier Learjet 45XR.

Although owing to the current economic reality, the airline has been struggling with keeping up its excellent bars, as it continued to fight for relevance and safety over the years.

The airline has in the past years recorded huge success in the aviation sector along with couple of incidents which have posed fears to passengers as they stand as the last resort in terms of booking flight tickets.

A breakdown of the many developments that have struck fears in passengers’ hearts includes the incident that occurred with their McDonnell Douglas MD-83 operating as Flight 0992 which crashed into a two-story building at Iju Railway, Ishaga, a suburb of Lagos.

A total of 153 passengers on the aircraft died in the incident. Following the crash, all flights by Dana Air were halted by Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

A twin incident occurred in 2018 within seven days intervals. The first occurred on the 7th of February, 2018, when a flight landed in Abuja and was taxiing on the runway when one of the emergency exit doors fell off.

Although no casualties were recorded from the incident, passengers claimed that the door rattled throughout the flight.

But in a swift reaction, the company’s spokesperson claimed that the door could not have fallen off without a conscious effort by a passenger. Determined to understand what occurred, The NCAA instituted an investigation into the incident.

Also, on 20 February 2018, a Dana Air MD-83 with registration 5N-SRI veered off the runway at Port-Harcourt international airport during a night landing. There were no casualties, but the aircraft suffered significant damage.

Both the airline and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, stated that the cause of the accident was inclement weather as there was torrential rain at the time of the landing.

In February 2022, a Lagos-bound flight, 9J336, fully loaded with passengers, made an emergency landing in Abuja, but the company’s Communication Manager, Kingsley, Ezenwa, noted that air return was due to bad weather at the destination.

Earlier in the week, another of the company’s aircraft, that was Abuja-bound with registration mark 5N DNA, had an emergency landing.

Although the aircraft was grounded for immediate attention by engineers. The company noted that the incident was due to an indication on one of its engines.

Following the development, NCAA, suspended the company’s Air Transport License, ATL, and Air Operator Certificate, AOC, indefinitely.

The authority noted that the suspension was made pursuant to Section 35(2), 3(b) and (4) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006 and Part 1.3.3.3(a)(1) of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs), 2015.

The suspension order, was handed down by the Director-General, Captain Musa Nuhu, and communicated to the management of Dana Airlines.

Nuhu said: “The decision is the outcome of a financial and economic health audit carried out on the airline by the authority, and the findings of an investigation conducted on the airline’s flight operations recently, which revealed that Dana Airlines is no longer in a position to meet its financial obligations and to conduct safe flight operations.

However, while reacting to the suspension, Ezenwa said the company understands the impact this suspension will have on our partners, staff, passengers and the general public but we are very confident that we would come out stronger as we have done in the past.”

He said: “We are fully ready and committed to cooperating with the aviation authority in the course of the audit. We are reassuring our customers and partners that we are safe, efficient and reliable.

“The recent skyrocketing cost of Jet A1 at N830/litre, unavailability of forex, and inflation are also contributory factors to this decision regrettably.

“We crave the understanding and patience of our customers, travel and business partners and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience our short absence from the market might cause.”

This development has added to the aviation sector challenges, as stakeholders admitted that both the company suspension and aero contractor also suspending its aircraft will increase the traffic of passengers.

Ch-aviation report on the number of worldwide active aircraft showed that the total worldwide fleet size currently counts 28,674 aircraft, with 23,513 active and 5,161 grounded, and we can see a favourable trend over the last three months.

In same period, amongst the countries with over 100 aircraft in their portfolio, Nigeria tops the list with 79 of 123 aircraft grounded, followed by Hong Kong with 151 of 244 aircraft grounded. Others includes Iran, Malaysia, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Thailand, Kenya, Philippines and Argentina follow.

With the suspension of aero contractors operations managing seven aircraft by the company and Dana’s suspension of flights operation by NCAA with eight active aircraft, this brings the number of grounded aircraft in the country to 94.

Reacting to the development, an aviation analyst, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, said the current reality would impact the sector negatively and also give rise to a surge in passenger traffic.

He said: “It is a trying time for the industry. Aero has suspended its operations, and Dana Air has been grounded by NCAA on an economic basis. Although the two situations are not the same, one was voluntary, the other was involuntary.

“The common factor here is that they are both grounded at a time when airlines are battling for facilities, forex and crippling fuel price which has continued to rise uncontrollably.

“With this, we are also having a situation where the government is not able to remit funds meant for foreign airlines, which also put stress on naira ticketing on international routes.

“Domestic airlines, passengers and the industry, in general, need to address the forex crisis to restore investor’s confidence and get more investors for the industry. We also need to see how we can mitigate the continuous rise of Jet A1 price.”

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.