• Sunday, July 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Nigeria needs aircraft hangars to stem N50bn drain

businessday-icon

As Nigeria seeks to conserve scarce foreign exchange in the face falling oil prices and a devalued currency , the failure of  government  to establish or encourage the establishment aircraft maintenance hangars in the country, is daily eating into the operational funds of  local airlines, as they struggle to survive amidst sundry charges.

A hangar is an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility.

Analysts put the cost of aircraft maintenance abroad for the country’s ten domestic airlines at about N50 billion annually.

The  maintenance is referred to in industry parlance as  ‘Checks A to D’.  ‘A’ and ‘B’ checks are lighter checks, while ‘C’ and ‘D’ checks are complete overhauls.

An aircraft is subject to C Check every 15 to 18 months, this is a comprehensive inspection.

Experts say it could cost between $1 million to $2 million to carry out a C-check on an aircraft, depending on the type.

The most detailed inspection is the ‘D’ Check. For the Boeing 737- 300, 737-400 and 737-500, this inspection is conducted after 24,000 flight hours. The Boeing 747-400 requires a ‘D’ Check after 28,000 flight hours, while for Airbus A-330-341,it is after six years.

“Unfortunately, only Arik and Aero have maintenance hangars in their bases in Nigeria. That is not to say they are in anyway different from others because Arik Air is in partnership with Lufthansa, where they pay heavily, Aero can’t go beyond C checks.

“Other airlines can only  carry out ‘line checks’ at the airsides, even-though airlines are no longer required to pay duty on imported parts, the manufacturers directives  on aircraft maintenance have to be adhered to strictly, because of safety, that is the standard but Nigerian airlines find it very expensive”,  an operator said.

Oluwaseyi Ajayi, senior representative of FlightSource International in Nigeria, a company that specializes in aircraft acquisition and maintenance,  who described the shortage of hangars as “a big challenge in Nigeria”, said government can  encourage the private sector in the form of Public Private Partnership to build hangars, in order to stem the huge capital flight.

Ajayi however said that such would have to come with a commitment, in order not to discourage the private company which is investing in it.

Dele Ore, president of Aviation Round Table (ART) a non-governmental organisation, said operational costs are stifling the country’s domestic airlines such that they could ill-afford to acquire hangars on their own  .

  “It is not enough to have customs duties removed on aircraft spares and acquisition, this is the core item because once you have to fly your aircraft out, not only are you going to pay for the maintenance, you are going to first take care of the crew that will fly the aircraft, the engineers that will supervise and you still pay for the normal check cost.

“So, it’s a double-headed thing for them and when they are through, you have to fly the crew back to bring the aircraft. When they drop the aircraft, they fly back as passengers and when they want to return to the maintenance country, they fly again as passenger to go and bring the aircraft. So, when you add all this to the cost of operation, that is added to the cost of maintenance and that makes it very prohibitive for Nigerian operators”, he said.

Titus Olaniyi, an aircraft maintenance engineer, called for planning and policy framework  that would encourage the establishment of hangars in the country, so as to protect the Nigerian aviation industry and its workforce.

Sade Williams