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After Aero Contractors, FirstNation On Verge Of Folding Up Flight Operations

Barely 24 hours after Aero Contractors stopped flight operations, another Nigerian airline, FirstNation Air, may soon follow suit.

Aviation sources told our correspondent that FirstNation Airways had ceased operations in the past two weeks due to non-availability of flight-worthy aircraft in its fleet.

FirstNation Airline

Before now, FirstNation had three Airbus A320 aircraft in its fleet, but two of the aircraft, which had gone on C-Checks abroad since 2015, are yet to return to Nigeria.

The beleaguered airline got its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in 2011, but its flight operations have been inconsistent ever since.

After the June 3, 2012 crash of a Dana Air passenger plane, FirstNation airline suspended flight operations, citing maintenance of its fleet. SaharaReporters learned that the airline's three Airbus A320s were repossessed by its lessor, the Aviation Capital Group.

A year later, in 2013, the airline resumed flight operations with daily flights to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

When our correspondent visited the airline's operating terminal at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA 2) in Lagos, the entire counters were shut without any employees in sight.

One aviation source blamed the NCAA for the distressed state of the airline industry, warning that if the agency does not improve its oversight of operators. The source said he could not rule out another avoidable air disaster if the NCAA did not rise fully to its responsibilities.

"From all indications, FirstNation cannot come back any time soon to flight operations. It has only one aircraft in its fleet, and the aircraft is not even serviceable. The other two aircraft have gone for checks since the last quarter of 2015 and they are yet to return to the country," he said.

The source added: “The NCAA has been dead since the removal of Dr. Harold Demuren as its Director-General. The current DG, Captain Mukhtar Usman, is not qualified for that position. Rather than focus on his job, he’s been junketing around the globe. In fact, he hardly spends two days in the country in a week.”

A statement by Mr. Usman confirmed that FirstNation was “temporarily” out of flight operations. According to him, Aero also ceased flight operations as a result of non-availability of the right equipment.

NCAA regulation stipulates that, for an airline to continue operations, it must have a minimum of two aircraft in its fleet.

Mr. Usman said, “First Nation Airlines on its part is in the middle of an engine replacement program for one of its aircraft. Another aircraft is due for mandatory maintenance...In these circumstances, these airlines clearly cannot continue to undertake scheduled operations, hence the inevitable recourse to self-regulatory suspension. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) wishes to reiterate that on no account will it compromise safety and security of airline operations in the airspace.

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

Mr. Usman dismissed reports in some quarters that some of the airlines were winding down their operations.

“On the contrary, these airlines are merely suspending their operations temporarily to enable them [to] undertake certain operational overhaul and strengthen their overall operational outlay.

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


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