Majority of the airlines operating in Nigeria have relatively old aircraft in their fleet, THISDAY investigations have revealed.
The crash of 22-year-old MD-83 aircraft owned by Dana Airlines has once again raised the issue of how seriously the issue of the age of an aircraft should be treated.
While it is generally argued that the serviceability – and not the age – of the aircraft is what matters, some experts also argue that servicing very old aircraft also comes with its own problems because of spare parts.
According to planespotters.net, an internet project of a Berlin, Germany-based firm, Thomas Noack, the oldest aircraft allowed to enter Nigeria is 22 years compared to the 10 years permitted in Russia.
Chanchangi Airlines has fleet size of six aircraft, average fleet age of 25.6 years and its oldest aircraft, 30.2 years.
Dana Air, which operating licence was suspended by the Federal Government in the light of Sunday’s crash, had a fleet size of five before the incident. Its average fleet age is 21.4 years and oldest aircraft 21.7 years.
The newest entrant into the lucrative but very capital intensive commercial airline business, First Nation Airways, has a fleet size of three aircraft, average fleet age 18.4 years, and oldest aircraft, 19.3 years.
Air Nigeria, which has a fleet size of 12 aircraft, the average age of its aircraft is 13.5 years, while its oldest aircraft is 18.2 years.
AeroContractors has a fleet size of 11 aircraft, including one on order. Its average fleet age is 19.7 years just as its oldest aircraft is 20.7 years.
Also, Africa Charter Services has a fleet size of two aircraft, average fleet age of 32.1 years, and oldest aircraft is 32.8 years.
Nigeria’s largest carrier, Arik Air, has a fleet size of 21 aircraft, average fleet age of 5.5 years, and oldest aircraft 11.3 years.
While Axiom Air has only one aircraft with a fleet age of 24.5 years, the defunct Bellview Airlines had a fleet size of two aircraft, average fleet age of 31.9 years and its oldest aircraft 33.2 years.
IRS Airlines has a fleet size of five aircraft, average fleet age of 21.6 years and oldest aircraft 22.5 years, while Overland Airways has a fleet size of two aircraft, average fleet age, 22.2 years, and oldest aircraft is 25.6 years.
Another new entrant into the airline business, Air Taraba, has ordered an aircraft with an average age of 10.5 years.
Tradecraft Airlines, fleet size, one aircraft, average fleet age, 25.4 years; as well as Transky Airlines, fleet size, one aircraft, and average fleet age is 28.2 years.
In a telephone chat with THISDAY Wednesday, the Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, said the 22 age limit policy of the Federal Government is at the time the aircraft is entering Nigerian airspace and not when it is already in the country.
“Once the aircraft is 22 years, it is not allowed to enter into Nigerian airspace. We are not talking of an aircraft that is already in the country. Nobody can do that because the rule is very clear,” he said.
He however declined to answer further questions, saying he was still mourning the loss of several lives in last Sunday air crash.
The 22 years mandatory age for commercial aircraft flying in Nigerian airspace was imposed following the EAS crash of 2002.
EAS Airlines Flight 4226 was on a scheduled flight between Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos when at about 2:35 pm on May 4, 2002, it crashed into a residential area of the city called Gwammaja, suburb of Kano.
The plane, a BAC 1-11 500, with 69 passengers and eight crew members on board, burst into flames upon impact.
The accident resulted in the death of about 64 passengers and seven crew members in addition to at least 74 others on the ground.
An investigation by the Federal Government on the cause of the crash revealed that it was pilot error.
The findings of the investigation showed that the engines failed following their intake of a large amount of dust.
This occurred as a result of the pilot overshooting the runway and continuing the take-off through a grassy area at the end of the runway.
Following the engine failure, the plane rapidly descended into the neighbouring Gwammaja ultimately destroying several structures on the ground.
It was gathered that prior to the crash, the aircraft had been grounded on two previous occasions: once in 2001 for 11 days to perform engine maintenance, and again in 2002 for 52 days in order to address engine problems.
The findings also showed that flight 4226 had the highest death toll of any aviation accident involving a BAC 1-11.