Friday, September 11, 2015

Nigerian Airlines Spend over N250bn Annually on Overseas Aircraft Maintenance

Commercial airlines, charter operators and privately owned jets spend about N250 billion annually on aircraft maintenance and simulator training of pilots, THISDAY investigation has revealed.

Airlines, according the checks, pay a minimum of $500,000 for engine overhaul and about the same amount of money for C-Check maintenance on a Boeing 737 aircraft.

It was gathered that Nigerian airlines spend so much because everything that has to do major maintenance is done overseas, including recurrent training for engineers and pilots.

Because of the huge cost of overseas maintenance and frequency for recurrent training, industry operators fear that Nigeria cannot get perfect safety standard that could be obtained in more advanced countries because it costs a Nigerian airline almost four times what it would cost similar airline in the US to change nose-wheel of an aircraft.

“First, if you want to change a nose-wheel of a Boeing 737, you have to import it, you have to pay for import cost, clearing cost and this will take you some time. Then if it is a Nigerian engineer that will do it, you must have trained him overseas at a higher cost than an airline in the US will train such engineer in his employ. So at the end of the day the total cost of replacing a nose-wheel for Nigerian airline might cost $700,000 while it will just cost the US airline about $150,000. He will call on phone and order for the delivery of the aircraft part which would come in two hours through DHL, the engineer may just do his training across the road, so much cost is saved,” an aeronautical engineer, would not want his name in print told THISDAY.

An inspector with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) also told THISDAY that the cost of carrying out maintenance is very expensive because of the exchange rate, because Nigerian airlines sell their tickets in Naira but the maintenance is paid in dollars.

“The cost of engine overhaul is dependent on the size of the engine, how common the engine is, so it will be cheaper to carry out maintenance on Boeing 737 engine than on Bombardier CRJ 1000 for example and when an engine flies for 10,000 hours it will be due for full overhaul that could cost a minimum of $500,000 but that depends on the engine structure and operating technic because engines that are subjected on high power operations during take-off reduces the engine life span than when you reduce engine power during take-off,” the inspector said.

The solution to the high cost of overseas maintenance, he said is the establishment of MRO facility in Nigeria. It is expected that the federal government would facilitate the establishment of MRO in Nigeria in order to save Nigerian airlines huge resources they spend overseas to maintain their aircraft.

Industry expert and former Secretary-Gen African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Nick Fadugba said: “Nigeria needs a modern international MRO (Maintenance Repair Overhaul) organization in Lagos. MRO must be where the business is, which is Lagos. Abuja is great but MRO must be where the business is, and that is Lagos because not only will you do line maintenance (daily servicing of the aircraft), you can also do checks-light check and heavy check. It is all a process and it won’t happen overnight. One airline may not be able to build a hangar, or none of them has the fleet size to justify the investment.

“Therefore Nigerian airlines should come together with a foreign investor. There are so many competent organizations in that field that can build a hangar of world class dimension, not only that they can fulfill maintenance for one line but for airlines in Nigeria.”


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