Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nigerian Airlines Still Battling with Safety Challenges

It has been acknowledged that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has improved in the regulatory oversight of the airlines, but THISDAY has learnt that some of the domestic airlines are still grappling with safety challenges because of poor and incompetent technical management.

The NCAA regularly examines airlines’ approved maintenance program, and their technical and administrative profiles. The Authority has the responsibility to recommend removal of an airline official who is incompetent.

THISDAY learnt that some airlines cannot afford the cost of hiring very competent and experienced hands to handle their aircraft because they are presently in financial mess. The situation, it was gathered, is affecting the output of their workers.

An inside NCAA source said, in terms of technical manuals of these airlines, they are up to date with their maintenance schedule, simulator training for their pilots and also the cockpit crew have met the criteria to operate; but lack motivation due to non-payment of their salaries.

However, industry operators have accused the regulatory body of being responsible for the failure of airlines to have enough operational funds because, over the years, it failed in economic regulation of the airlines.
A source said if a major accident occurs, it is not because the aircraft has technical limitation or was not airworthy, but because the pilot lacked motivation.

“Aviation sector is a very sensitive sector where you don’t compromise on meeting the needs of your cockpit crew and your engineers. You must have money to competently run your operation. But it is not so with many of the Nigerian airlines. Some of the domestic airlines are okay, but some are hanging precariously. Some might have met the expected safety procedure but their cockpit crew may be thinking of the welfare of their children and therefore may not concentrate on their jobs.”

“As a sensitive industry, it is expected that NCAA should also take drastic action when necessary to ground airlines that fail to meet their financial obligation to their staff, especially the technical staff.  Many of our airlines have financial issues; some have not paid salary for upward of six months. Then there is poor technical management of some of the airlines, but the rating of the airlines is not bad”, the source said.

THISDAY also learnt that some airlines cannot engage competent and highly skilled personnel because of the high cost of their remuneration and this affects the operational competences of the airlines.

This was confirmed by a pilot, who said some expatriates who seek for jobs as pilots and engineers may show their certificates and are quickly employed by some airlines without thorough verification of their claims.

“Some air crashes in Nigeria could be attributed to this problem, people claiming to have the competences, which they actually don’t have. That may be the reason why a captain in command in one of the recent tragic accidents in Nigeria could not take a good decision to save the lives in his aircraft. It is under emergency that you know the competence of a pilot, but most often tragedies don’t give opportunity for the pilot to re-examine the action he had taken. We are in a capital market, so what you pay for is what you get,” the source added.

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