Government and operators decide to end flight of capital for maintenance of $ 2 billion aircraft

• Initiative to help Nigeria retain forex

Chinedu Eze

As part of efforts to end the massive flight of capital spent on overseas aircraft maintenance, estimated at $ 2 billion a year, some aviation industry operators and the state government Akwa Ibom have taken steps to develop maintenance facilities in Nigeria.

Over the past four years, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has issued Aircraft Maintenance Organization (AMO) certificates to Aero Contractors, 7-Star Global Hangers Limited and Overland Airways for the maintenance of ATR aircraft, in addition to certification given to Execujet, a global maintenance organization for business jets.

In addition, early next year, the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility under construction in Uyo by the Akwa Ibom state government will go into operation, while the chairman Air Peace chief executive Mr. Allen Onyema announced that the airline has completed plans to set up an MRO facility in Nigeria for the maintenance of its fleet and others.

For this reason, industry experts said the move would end the huge resources spent overseas on aircraft maintenance, which represent the highest operating cost for airlines after fuel. aviation by Nigerian carriers and others.

The maintenance facilities would in turn be a source of foreign exchange income for the country, as airlines and aircraft owners in Africa and beyond could maintain their equipment in Nigeria.

Ibom Air Chief Engineering and Maintenance Officer Mr. Lookman Animaseun told THISDAY in a phone interview yesterday that it was good for the NCAA to allow MRO organizations in Nigeria to save the country an estimated $ 2 billion. dollars spent on aircraft maintenance overseas each year.

Animaseun said that in addition to the Nigerian market, airlines from West and Central Africa will also bring their planes for service to Nigeria, which will attract forex to the country.
He said, “It’s good that the NCAA allows MROs. It’s good for Nigeria. We also expect MRO organizations to reciprocate and properly equip their facilities. I have no doubt that we can do it.

“There is a huge market for facilities in the west, central and other parts of the continent and beyond. It makes me happy that the owners of these maintenance facilities have a good goal. These are people whose backgrounds we know and with whom we have interacted.

“These facilities will save Nigeria $ 2 billion per year if properly operated. We will have more facilities by the time Akwa Ibom completes his at the start of next year.
“What makes me happy is that there is a huge market for these maintenance facilities. Aero Contractors, which has maintenance facilities, can no longer keep up with the demand. He should look for a place to expand his hangar. The company needs to improve its game to match what the industry is currently looking for. “

Industry expert Captain Ado Sanusi TODAY said MRO activity is good. “But before investors get started, they should do their business assessment, looking at the workforce, customer base and skills to make their operations profitable,” he advised.

In the MRO installation market in Nigeria, Aero Contractors General Manager Captain Mahmood Abdullahi said that Aero Contractors had third party planes (from other airlines) for maintenance and that they were not just coming from Nigeria.

“You can see a lot of third-party planes are here in the hangar. It’s not just Nigerian airlines. There is the Democratic Republic of Congo, they have their Boeing 737 here and we have already signed with the Civil Aviation of Ghana and they have given us the authorization to maintain aircraft registered in Ghana.

“And so, we have an agreement with Passion Air in Ghana. Tunisia too, they are working there to get their approval and then Malta too, we are working there to get their approval. Yes, we are working on all of these approvals; once we have those approvals, we will keep aircraft registered in those countries at our facilities here, ”said Mahmood.

He also spoke about the cost of shipping planes overseas for maintenance, saying, “I think there are so many downsides to taking your plane out of the country for maintenance. If you are talking about the cost it will cost for an airline to fly their planes from Nigeria, probably to Europe, or anywhere, if you are talking about the fuel they would burn to leave, the cost of paid navigation, the plane goes there, then fly it again.

“All of these costs are saved by having an MRO here. We have saved the airlines huge costs. Then if you come to the maintenance aspect, you talk about the workforce. If they go, they pay the man-hour in dollars, but here we charge them the man-hour in naira. So it’s easy for them if they can’t access forex, at least we give them the option to pay naira here.
Onyema denounced the huge costs incurred by the airline to maintain its planes overseas, saying the company had completed its plan to establish a maintenance hangar in Nigeria.

He explains: “The establishment of a real MRO is long overdue. You don’t want to know the amount of capital flight, the money that could have been used for other things in our country goes abroad. Let me give you an example, at the last count two weeks ago, Air Peace had 21 planes from that country. You don’t want to know how much we’re spending on these planes.

“We are at the mercy of these overseas MRO owners and you and I know how they stigmatize us and everything in Nigeria. So you spend a lot of money to take these planes overseas. We need to have our MROs here. The good thing about having MRO is that you are not just going to maintain your own fleet, other Nigerians will come there, all of Africa will come here. Aviation is the same all over the world.
“Once you have EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) approval for your MRO, you have FAA (US Federal Aviation Administration) approval for your MRO, the approval of the NCAA and you have the approval of other civil aviation authorities, the whole world will come here. And it will be an influx of capital, not the (forex) ones from Nigeria. So that will help. Yes, Air Peace is ready, we have acquired the land, we are ready to give this country a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility that Africa will be proud of.
Recently, the NCAA granted 7Star Global Hangar Ltd the AMO certificate to operate an all-inclusive maintenance, repair and overhaul facility.

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