Aviation crisis deepens as another airline suspends operations

Another domestic carrier, First Nation Airlines, has suspended its operations, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has said.

This is coming less than 24 hours after Aero Contractors Airlines, Nigeria’s second largest commercial carrier, announced the suspension of its scheduled flight services and its workers were ordered to proceed on indefinite leave with effect from Thursday, September 1, 2016.

According to a statement signed on Thursday by the Director-General, NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman, the decision by the First Nation to suspend its operations was taken to enable the carrier to carry out the required maintenance of its aircraft.

The agency, however, refuted claims that some of the domestic airlines were winding down their operations regardless of the fact that they had suspended flight services.

The statement said, “The First Nation Airlines on its part is in the middle of an engine replacement programme for one of its aircraft. Another aircraft is due for mandatory maintenance as is allowable by the regulatory authority.

“In these circumstances, these airlines clearly cannot continue to undertake schedule operations, hence the inevitable recourse to self regulatory suspension.”

Usman insisted that the domestic carriers had not wind down their operations, but were “merely suspending their operations temporarily to enable them undertake certain operational overhaul and strengthen their overall operational outlay.”

He added, “One of the airlines, Aerocontractors, at present has only one serviceable aircraft. This in contradiction to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig), which stipulates that no airline operator shall carry out schedule commercial operation with only one aircraft. The minimum acceptable number is three aircraft.

“In other words, any airline with one aircraft is in contravention of the authority’s regulations; it, therefore, cannot be adjudged to be capable of providing safe operation. The only option available is to suspend your operations temporarily while other aircraft arrive in due course.”

It, however, explained that the NCAA’s regulations provided a window for such operator to embark on non-scheduled operations in the interim.

The NCAA reiterated that on no account would the authority compromise on safety and security of airline operations in the airspace.

“Every facet of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations and Standard and Recommended Practices must be adhered to with due diligence. In addition, everything has been put in place to continue to ensure compliance,” it said.