• Six airlines pass airworthiness test, says NCAA
About 20 operators in the aviation sector, including the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, have submitted their operational restart plans to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority as the country prepares to reopen its airspace to commercial flights beginning from June 21, 2020.
It was also gathered that six airlines had passed the airworthiness mark set by the sector regulator in order to allow them begin commercial operations.
This came as FAAN announced that with the resumption of commercial flights at various airports, persons who were not travelling would not be allowed into the airport terminal buildings.
These were some of the discussions made by over 300 operators in the aviation sector during a webinar that dragged on from Tuesday night till the early hours of Wednesday.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Director-General, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu; National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sanni Aliyu; Chairman, Air Peace, Allen Oyema, were among the many operators who participated in the webinar.
On the submission of restart plans by operators, the General Manager, Airline Operators’ Certificate and Surveillance, NCAA, Godwin Balang, said 20 stakeholders had complied.
He said, “We have 11 recommendations and we have reviewed the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s recommendations. The guideline is going to reflect our last meeting with airlines.
“On recovery plan, 20 aviation stakeholders have submitted their restart plan so far.
“We have received from FAAN, plan on Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt; Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri; while those of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja came later.”
The Director, Airworthiness Standards, NCAA, Ita Awak, told participants that some airlines had met the airworthiness requirements of the regulator.
He said, “Six of the airlines have crossed the mark from the point of view of airworthiness.
“We have asked all the airlines that they should use only reagents that are approved by the Original Equipment Manufacturers of their different aircraft types to disinfect their machines.”
Sirika said the purpose of the exercise was to get it right as the sector gears up to restart commercial flight operations.
The minister said the Federal Government was seriously considering palliative measures for the aviation sector.
He said, “Palliative is being considered and it is for the whole industry. There will be a template and it will be fair to everyone in the industry.”
A former Director-General of NCAA, Harold Demuren, suggested that there should be some form of simulation exercise before the real opening of airports to passenger traffic.
“We need to assure passengers that it is safe to fly. A simulation, two days before the opening of the airports, is encouraged,” he stated.
On the financial health of the airlines in Nigeria, the Director, Air Transport Regulation, NCAA, Group Capt. Edem Oyo-Ita (retd.) said, “Only three airlines have submitted their financial health while we are waiting for others.”
The Area Manager, West Africa, International Air Transport Association, Samson Fatokun, warned that airlines would not break even with the proposed 70 per cent load factor.
He said, “Air transport in Nigeria is distressed with the shutting down of operations. This industry need financial support. We are appealing again to the government to support the industry.
Supporting the IATA official, Allen Onyema of Air Peace, said the intention of the palliative by government should be for job retention.
On the campaign to leave some middle seats empty while onboard airplanes, the Air Peace boss said “this will kill the airlines in Nigeria.”
He explained that the purchasing power of the average Nigerian was low, giving a scenario where the airlines would need to transfer the fares on the middle seats to passenger tickets.
“Can Nigerians afford N70,000 worth of ticket on less than one-hour flight?” Onyema asked.
On March 23, 2020, the Federal Government shut all airports across the country to commercial flight operations as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.