How abandoned aircraft pose grave danger to airport safety, security, congest ramp- NCAA

  • How court orders, frustrate FAAN from removing airplanes
  • Probes Arik airplane component theft
  • Authority, airlines, others meet next week 

 

 

The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu has lamented the difficulty in removing unserviceable aircraft from the apron of many of the country’s airports, saying they constitute security and safety challenges including ramp congestion.

He also decried the removal of a critical component in Arik Air’s aircraft, alleging it to be vandalisation.

He hinted that whoever removed the parts had access, knew what they were after, and removed them professionally without damaging anything else.

A common sight strikes the eyes of passengers in airports throughout Nigeria’s major airports as old aircraft that belong to bankrupt airlines share the ground with on-duty planes and wear out in the weather. Some of these retired planes have never been auctioned.

 

Others were auctioned years ago, but are still waiting for their new owners to take them away. The owners, in turn, cite the high transport costs and business shifts as the main reasons for the delays in picking them up.

The parking of disused airplanes particularly at the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) is coming at a time the terminal operator is grappling with space following the increase in airline operations from the terminal, forcing planes which are to pick passengers from the terminal to park elsewhere until other aircraft make a way out of the apron.

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The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) seems to have been overwhelmed with the high number of disused aircraft in critical areas of many of the airports across the country and one that has continually posed security challenges to the aerodromes.

 Regional Manager, South West of FAAN, Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba recently disclosed that the agency had severally written to them to take them to lesser busy airports at no additional cost to them, adding that FAAN was even ready to wave parking fees for them just to ensure that they move their aircraft to a better place.

The agency is however constrained from removing disused aircraft from many of the nation’s airports following legal battles between the owners of the planes and lessors despite Nigeria being a signatory to the Cape Town Convention.

Aviation Metric gathered that many of the disused airplanes are kept on the apron following litigations from the operators following a clause in the convention some said could make the lessee press for charges.

Most of the time, the litigations stretch for years in court, leading to corrosion and economic damage to the airplanes.

Despite the strict conditions of these agreements, Nigerian airlines run to the local court to raise ex parte motions to stop lessors from taking back their aircraft. This puts the NCAA in a precarious situation as it stands as surety for the pact.

The NCAA Director-General admitted that there are difficulties of removing disused airplanes from the nation’s aerodromes, citing several attempts in the past that did not yield the desired result, attributing the frustration to so many court cases which restricted FAAN from removing them while underlining the security implication their presence cause to the area.

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 “In Lagos, Benin, Kano, Port Harcourt, even Abuja there are so many unserviceable aircraft parked where development and expansion could have taken place. From Hak Air, Fresh Air, NICON Airways, Space world aircraft to Chanchangi, Kabo, Okada all rotten away”.

 “The National Assembly made a pronouncement on unserviceable aircraft. We have made attempts to remove them, but unfortunately, a lot of them have court cases and there is a kind of restriction on FAAN. So, it is a difficult situation, but we are having a meeting sometime next week to discuss this and see what we can do”.

 “There are so many implications for these aircraft; it is congesting the ramp and to me, it has safety implications. It can have security implications and it denies the growth of the industry. Unused aircraft are parked and taking space where new and serviceable aircraft can take. So, it’s a very grave concern”.

 “We have discussed with FAAN even before the National Assembly talked on it. Court cases can sometimes tie your hands because if you go and do something, the court will fine you for contempt of court,” He said regrettably.

 Speaking on the theft, Nuhu said,” All I can say, investigations are ongoing on the incident, but I won’t say it was a vandalization. What happened is that somebody who obviously knew where the aircraft is, somebody who knew obviously what he was doing, went to the E and E2 compartments, walked in there, and removed a component professionally without damaging anything.

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 “So, figure out that for yourself. As far as I am concerned, it is an ongoing investigation. So, we will wait for the outcome of the investigation. It is very clear that I cannot go to the very technical part of the aircraft and remove something there. I must know something about it and I am not new to the system. Whoever did that job knew what he was doing. The security agencies are investigating the issue”.

The NCAA DG denied allegations that the nation’s airports are not safe, stating,  “How many aircraft have been vandalized in Nigeria in the past 10 years? Let’s not use a single issue to destroy our country. This is one incident, which seems to have been done by a professional, maybe an insider”.

 “Have we had any case of people going to vandalize an aircraft in the last 10 years? This is one case and we should not use it to destroy the reputation of our industry.”

Wole Shadare