Nigeria: Stakeholders – Nigerian Airlines Need Local Mro in 2023 to Improve Capacity, Reduce Expenditure

With the dawn of a new year in the next 48 hours, aircraft engineers in the Nigerian aviation industry have said the greatest gift that could be given to domestic carriers is to have local maintenance facility that can conduct checks on at least 70 per cent of Nigeria’s commercial aircraft.

To make this possible, there have been calls for investors to commit funds in developing existing facilities instead of building a new one, which would take longer time.

THISDAY learnt that the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility owned by Aero Contractors could provide such service, if funds were made available for its expansion.

One of the major drawbacks to Nigerian commercial airlines is the huge expenditure they make in paying for major checks overseas, which about 40 per cent of such expenses could be saved if the maintenance is carried out locally.

It is estimated that with the increase in the number of operating aircraft, Nigerian carriers spend about $1.5 billion annually on aircraft maintenance overseas.

The airlines would not seek for foreign exchange; so paying for the maintenance in Naira would be a huge burden lifted from the operators.

Head of Aero Contractors’ Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) James Ominyi, told THISDAY recently that local maintenance of aircraft up to the level of C-check would save Nigerian airlines huge amount of money in foreign exchange.

Ominyi said there could be many costs associated with ferrying the aircraft overseas for maintenance, which include over flight permit, depending on which country the airline is going to.

“You need to seek the over flight permit of the country. And then, depending on the distance you have to pay for fuel. But I know it will not be less than $50, 000. You also will have to pay for landing and fueling, which is called technical stop.

“When they open the engine and they open the side wall panels they may see cracks that are beyond what is agreed on, which they have to rectify and this will be at extra cost.

“By carrying out C-checks in Nigeria, Aero would be saving Nigerian airlines millions of dollars every year and reduce pressure on the Naira, as every expenses outside fueling and salaries is done in foreign exchange and that is in dollars,” he said.

Ominyi explained that generally MROs could charge $600, 000 for C-check, depending on the scope of work, but noted that at the end of the day the airline might end up paying up to a one million dollars or more because there could be findings that would be beyond what was captured in the agreement in the C-Check and then the airline would have to pay for it.

On his part, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, told THISDAY on Wednesday that if the company could secure funding it would expand the existing facilities to take in more aircraft, disclosing that in addition to the Boeing Classics, Bombardier Q400 and Helicopters it has the licence to conduct major checks on, it plans to develop manpower for the maintenance of Embraer 145 and would also develop capacity for the maintenance of Bombardier CRJ 700-900.

“We can expand our maintenance facility to take in more aircraft of we get funding. Everything is about investment. So if investors invest in Aero we can extend what we have and also have over night facility and manpower. If we do that we can cater for 70 to 90 per cent of commercial aircraft in Nigeria. But the only aircraft we are certified to maintain are the aircraft under Nigerian registry. Currently we don’t have the capacity to conduct major checks on Embraer I45. We want to upgrade our facility to conduct heavy checks on E145. We are also working to develop capacity for Bombardier CRJ 700-900 aircraft types,” he said.

Sanusi said currently, the maintenance facility that Aero has, could take in two aircraft at a time and the number could be increased soon.

He also observed that having a major aircraft maintenance facility remained very critical for airlines, adding that it should have been a priority while government is midwifing a national carrier because ideally, establishing a national carrier and maintenance facility should have gone hand to hand.

Also speaking, the Managing Director of Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, told THISDAY that Nigeria is in dire need of major maintenance aircraft, remarking that there are three maintenance facilities for commercial aircraft in Nigeria: the Aero facility, 7Star maintenance facility and the one being built by the government of AkwaIbom state, noting that the later would not be put into consideration as it is yet to come on stream.

Akpan observed that currently Nigeria does not have MRO facility that has capacity, which can conduct major checks on many aircraft, disclosing that Nigerian carriers still ferry majority of their aircraft overseas because the country is yet to have a major maintenance facility.

“Many airlines still ferry their aircraft overseas because the ones in Nigeria are not meeting the demand of the airlines. They will tell you they don’t have slot,” he said.

Akpan also stated that government should have made establishment of MRO a priority, observing that for airlines to sustain operation and compete with their counterparts globally, such airlines must have local maintenance facility and cheap source of funding, adding that a Nigerian airline that obtains credit facility at 26 per cent cannot be competing with another airline that obtains credit facility at 5 per cent; just as an airline that conducts its checks locally cannot compete with another that ferries its aircraft overseas for maintenance.

Having major MRO facility was a priority the federal government missed because a national carrier, which conducts its maintenance overseas like the existing Nigerian airlines, will also face the same challenges the existing airlines are facing.

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