Why Nigerian airlines are in dire straits-Capt. Ore

Capt. Dele Ore is a notable aircraft training captain and Type Rating Examiner – G II. Capt. He is also director and training coordinator of Aeroconsult/Dele Ore Associates partnership, a graduate of Britain Air University (AST), Perth Scotland, Oxford Air Training School, Mannin University, U.K., and the University of Lagos. In this interview with WOLE SHADARE, he lamented carriers’ lack of business model, describes NCAA as the weakest link in the country’s aviation industry and lauded the Federal Government on the bold steps to reposition the aviation sector. Excerpt
How can Nigerian airlines get out of the woods?
It is very unfortunate that the airlines are in pitiable, comatose and nearly irredeemable state which unfortunately is what they visited on themselves. The government policies did not help either. The airlines as we are speaking have refused, neglected wise counsel from Aviation Round Table (ART). Till today, it is the fight for the survival of the industry and the ART has fought for these airlines in the last 17 years. They have not acknowledged this by way of participation and or sponsorship where we are deliberating ways to get them out of the woods. Our call for the airlines to be consolidated, to be corporative in one form of partnering, merging, friendly acquisition or hostile take-over which would have resulted today into three strong domestic carriers fell on deaf ear. The main reason for their refusal to do things that will keep them alive rather than the sudden death we have witnessed with all the airlines can be attributable to personal ego, uncompromising leadership issue, different quality and safety use and variable types of equipment. Most airlines do not have appropriate business plan which is key to survival.
Dele ore
Are you saying they do not have good business model?
Most of the airlines have very shoddy aircraft utilisation coupled with wrong choice of aircraft type and failure to develop and create a niche for themselves on newly developed routes through their efforts. They stay on the already developed, over served and highly competitive routes to their detriments.
Could this be problems plaguing Arik?
Right from the onset, I have the goodluck of sitting with the very first Managing Director of Arik at a seminar in airport hotel. As a foreigner, he did not know who I was. He boastfully said that they would not touch any Nigeria Airways staff even with a long spoon for several reasons which I consider unprintable on the pages of newspapers which unfortunately were not true. They had Nigeria Airways valuable assets on a platter of gold coupled with their own resources and bearing in mind that good old saying, “Sea never dries,” There are obvious choice why they also proudly preferred expertise from foreign land which I know has caused an arm and a leg. With adequate resources, good equipment, unlimited route access at their disposal, this was never matched with competent management which also failed, refused and neglected corporate governance. They could be commended on technology (automation) but they failed to also recognise that automation is a failure except human beings are in charge or in control. Human beings included unions which they abhorred like a plague. Good will was lacking from the informed Nigerians who felt intimidated that Arik had appropriated what is rightfully their own as Nigerians. Be that as it may, the essence of business is that you are credit worthy. You cannot ignore your creditors. They were leaning on the Federal might for protection which sooner or later, it is going to be short-lived as it eventually happened. With debt profile becoming unmanageable, creditors had to intervene with the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). AMCON to me had never had expertise to run an airline. They probably would do a better job in the financial institutions. It is therefore not surprising that a fleet of 30 aircraft has disappeared to nine. The end result therefore is that people will be laid off; aircraft utilisation will drastically reduce instead of growth. We started seeing degeneration. With three airlines already taken over by AMCON then, be rest assured that the future is very bleak for the industry. The airlines cannot operate in isolation; they would be boosted first by appropriate laid down policies within a very good environment.
Some appointments done have been criticised. What is your view on this?
I will not believe that the Minister did not carry out due diligence. He must have been overwhelmed by other compelling considerations to bring us in line with the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Be that as it may, this is one Minister whose effort I really commend. He has departed from the old routine of recycling the usual known characters who we all know to be lobbyists, hustlers and praise singers. Some oversight must have occurred resulting in one or two appointments. A whole range of appointments can never be perfect. I identify myself with the appointments in all the parastatals except one. I will continue to doff my hat for Sirika for following the rule. The Minister was on spot and on top of the matter by appointment of a dynamic, knowledgeable and qualified individual for the post of AIB. The Minister did his due diligence and has now been vindicated by the action taken so far by the exposure of the new AIB Commissioner. The doubting Thomases have also been proved wrong following the appointment of Akin Olateru as AIB Commissioner. This silent and capable but capable aviator has quantifiable, proven track record from several organisation. Unknown to those critics, I argued in one forum that this commissioner of AIB would have been best suited for NCAA DG, but that is my judgment as a person but the  prerogative is that of the minister without prejudice to what AIB under his leadership  is would do in the near future. The record already speaks for itself. It is no longer a secret which we have been denied for so long of accident reports. I doff my hat for the Commissioner when in one single swoop he recently released for accident reports. This is unprecedented, setting records straight; an indication that the truth must always prevail. My investigation also reveals that he was a member of the very first committee on security set up by the Minister. He has also demonstrated that he has opium of contributing to the survival of this industry by his appearance when invited to public functions even at short notice. He has kept his promise upon appointment to head the agency for quick release of many reports which we all know had gathered dust on the shelf of AIB. The Dana report which for no reason was becoming controversial because of large number of casualties and circumstances was released to my admiration and made us have insight to what happened and what did not happen. I am most excited by the final report which now has safety recommendations. This is the most important part of the investigative process. I am also very inclined not to jump into conclusion about judgment of the flight crew. I am not inclined to be worried about and why the commander was employed despite some previous indictment. It is also a known issue whether a licence was signed or not because I did not see it as a contributory factor. In all, what is important is, have we learned any lesson? Other reports such as the OAS, Bristow Helicopters and other ones for which I commend the efforts of the AIB because the findings of those accidents are equally instructive. In the final analysis, while agreeing with the reports and views of some experts that human factor in aircraft operations coupled with Morphis’ law will buttress the view of my good self, published in my book entitled, “Issues in Nigeria’s aircraft accidents (2010)”. The conclusion of it had an element of management influence in aircraft and concession of aircraft accidents.
Controversy of Abuja airport runway shutdown
I salute the courage of the Minister for the bold, decisive and appropriate action in shutting down Abuja airport runway. It was long overdue. The Lord has been so kind to us. That runway would have claimed lives. Previous government could not be decisive; rather, they were playing with people’s lives. The runway surface of Abuja airport had become a death trap due to negligence and failure to maintain it periodically. Incidentally, moving to the alternate airport in Kaduna would have been unnecessary if government had listened to ART many years ago of the importance of a second runway for Abuja. The hue and cries of progressive maintenance while the runway is progressively repaired at night is also suicidal. The B747 accident on the 1/8 Left runway of the Lagos airport by Hydro Cargo is very instructive here and a terrible embarrassment to Nigeria.  Runway maintenance is also very different from the motorway which the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) ignorantly equated to be the same. Thank God, and I followed with key interest how the Minister was in the Senate and explained why his actions should not be condemned. He explained in technical details and adequate knowledge to conclude that Abuja airport runway had already failed to allow for a complete overhaul. I did not mince words; a few of our colleagues in ART endorsed the view and action of the Minister that the Abuja airport runway had to be shutdown. The meticulous consideration of the alternate is also very commendable through wise counsel, coupled with the technical details. They eliminated Minna, Makurdi, Jos and Kano before settling rightfully for Kaduna. Most people always forget that Kaduna has another Military runway which is adequate for civil use. The terminal building in Kaduna just needed completion as work had been going on in line with budgetary allocation. The Hajj terminal also provided additional capacity for Kaduna. Meticulous arrangements for road and rail transportation were put in place. For the first time in Nigeria, I was seeing co-operation of security agencies concerning the whole operations of Kaduna-Abuja-Kaduna. Organisations have been sensitised; investors had been geared up to provide innovative helicopter shuttle services. Efforts put in place for helicopter shuttle was erroneously suspended but was immediately rescinded by information provided by Sirika. Surely, there has to be teething problem for the initial few days of operations some of which were considered minor problem like ATM, delay in baggage collection especially when international flights arrive shortly after domestic flights. All these challenges were able and successfully handled. I believe that the government should be commended for the bold steps taken so far. In all these however, you may wish to ask that the DG of NCAA was passive and not visible, rather, the whole pressure was laid upon the Minister which he handled very well. It was a thing that was considered unprecedented by putting his career, his life on the line to resign if the Abuja airport runway is not completed by April 19, 2017. I have never heard this type of affirmation from any public officer in Nigeria in my life. I commend with all admiration, the courage, the forthrightness, the confidence and passion of Senator Hadi Sirika for the things that concerns Nigeria’s aviation industry.  
Wole Shadare