The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NACA, has cleared national flag carrier, Air Nigeria, for domestic and regional flight operations following a satisfactory audit of its fleet. According to a letter dated 12th June, 2012 with reference number: NCAA/ DAWS.002/12/VOL.1/149, sent to the Managing Director, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency by the Director, Airworthiness Standards, NCAA, Mr. Patrick Ekunwe, the agency was directed to clear all Air Nigeria aircraft for flight operations.
The letter titled, “Domestic and Regional Flight operations of Air Nigeria”, reads in part, “Please be informed that Air Nigeria has been cleared by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to resume its normal domestic and regional flight operations. Please grant them the necessary flight clearances accordingly.”
Commenting on the development at a news conference yesterday in Lagos, the Chairman, Air Nigeria, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim OFR, stressed that the airline is in full compliance with all international standards on safety regulations.
He explained that it was normal for NCAA to recertify the aircraft of the airline after some of its local staff went on strike.
He said: “Air Nigeria is not grounded. There is no reason for it to be grounded. It’s the safest airline in Nigeria as at today. We belong to IATA and we are audited by IOSA. We have been a member of IATA for the past six years and we are the oldest in West Africa.
“We are the safest airline in Nigeria today. Let other airlines operating in the country submit their papers for IOSA audit. Sincerely, NCAA has done its audit well and we were given a clean bill of health. We today operate international flights and I want you to know that if we were not safe, we won’t be given the clearance to fly to European airspace on daily basis by the authorities there.”
Ibrahim also said that for Nigerian airlines to be given the needed respect and recognition in the world and for air travellers to have confidence in the operations of the airlines once again, the Federal Government should make it mandatory for all indigenous operators to belong to IATA.
He emphasised that with this, their operations would be periodically audited by IOSA in addition to daily checks and regulations by NCAA. He maintained that until this is done, air travellers would continue to be pessimistic about the safety of local airlines.
On the age of aircraft in the airline’s fleet, Ibrahim noted that average age of the airline’s planes is nine years old while its Embraer aircraft in the fleet are barely three years old, stressing that the airline was not in the class of airlines with 22-year old aircraft in their fleet.
He stated that although, the regular maintenance of aircraft is the most important way by which a good and safe aircraft would be known, the age of the airplanes also matters in air operations.
He added: “For instance, the Airbus 330-200 that we use for Lagos-London route is barely six years old while a foreign competitor on the same route uses a 15-year old aircraft. If you look at the fleet of other airlines in the world, they are relatively new. The old aircraft don’t have the modern devices in-built technology, which is key, particularly in emergency situations such as head-on collision.”
On the presidential committee set up by the Federal Government to audit the indigenous airlines, Ibrahim said the step was not a wrong move, but that the NCAA is the only statutory body recognised by law to carry out audit of all airlines in the country.
The Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Kinfe Kahssaye, said Air Nigeria had been a member of the association in the last six years and since the safety audits were carried out every nine months, the airline had not lost its international audit operational safety membership of IOSA.
The letter of clearance from NCAA to NAMA