|Stakeholders react over Aircraft age limit|
The proposed new policy by the Federal Government to reduce the age of aircraft certified to fly in the nation’s airspace to fifteen years has generated reactions from stakeholders at the just concluded African Aviation Ministerial Conference in Abuja.
The proposed policy announced by the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah at the meeting was seen by some as a right step in the right direction while others saw it as too hasty.
The policy, which has been described by industry experts as unrealistic, will lead to the banning of no fewer than 38 jets, representing about 60 per cent of scheduled commercial airlines’ planes in the country. The 38 planes are currently flying for eight domestic airlines.
At least, four airlines will have their entire fleet grounded by the planned policy, which has been described in some quarters as a knee-jerk approach to safety.
They are FirstNation Airlines, Dana Air, IRS Airlines and Chanchangi Airlines.
The Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, had at the Safety Conference of African Aviation Ministers in Abuja on Thursday said the government was already considering lowering the age limit of aircraft that could operate in the country to 15 years.
She admitted that the policy could have a short-term negative impact on the desire to encourage the growth of domestic airlines but added that the issue should be how to strengthen and enhance airlines’ viability as business concerns.
Statistics on age and histories of Nigerian airlines’ planes obtained from planespotters.net showed that at least 38 out of the 64 Nigerian commercial planes were over 15 years old.
It means that approximately 60 per cent of commercial planes being flown by the domestic airlines face ban over the proposed policy.
The statistics from the planespotters.net showed that apart from the plane that crashed, Dana currently has four Boeing McDonnell Douglass 83 planes that are over 15 years.
All the three Airbus A320-200 in FirstNation’s fleet are over 15 years, according to planespotters.net. Also, all the five Fokker 100 planes in IRS’s fleet are over 15 years old.
All the four Boeing 737-200 and two Boeing 737-300 in Chanchangi’s fleet are over 15 years old.
The three ATR 42 planes in Overland Airways’ fleet are also over 15 years. The age of the two Beechcraft 1900D could not be determined from planespotters.net as of press time.
According to planespotters.net, 11 out of the 12 planes registered under Aero Contractors are over 15 years old. These are seven Boeing 737-500s and four 737-400s. The 12th plane, which is a De Havilland Canada Dash 8, is 12.9 years old.
Also, four out of the 12 planes registered under Air Nigeria are over 15 years old. These are three Boeing 737-300s and one Boeing 737-400. The other planes in the airline’s fleet are less than 15 years. These are five Boeing 737-300, one Airbus A330-200 that is just 6.7 years and two Embraer 190 jets that are about three years. Air Nigeria has, however, returned about four Boeing 737-300 to its lessor, GECAS.
All the 21 planes registered under a major commercial airline in Nigeria are less than 15 years, according to planespotters.net. The ages range from two to 11 years. The airline has Boeing, Airbus and De Havilland Canadian-made planes.
Associated Airlines has two of its Embraer 120 planes, which are over 14 years old.
Reacting to the proposed policy, the General Secretary, Airlines Operators of Nigeria, Captain Muhammed Joji, told newsmen on Sunday that the body would challenge the Minister’s decision.
Joji, who said the decision was wrong, said international regulation did not impose any age limit on aircraft to be used for any operation.
Also former Director of Operation of the liquidated national carrier, Nigerian Airways, retired Captain Dele Ore, said the proposed policy would make Nigeria a laughing stock in the international community.
Ore, who is also the President of the Aviation Round Table, an industry pressure group, said he was at the conference in Abuja when the Minister talked about the proposed policy.
He said the planned policy would not reduce the rate of accident in anyway.
Controversy over the safety of old planes came to the front burner after news came that the Dana Air plane that crashed in Lagos was about 22 years old.
Experts, however, said that there was no correlation between the age of an aircraft and accident. A well respected former Nigerian Airways pilot, Captain Shina Akinfenwa, had said the age of an aircraft had nothing in common with its safety.
President Jonathan, had however, at the safety conference said government would provide low-interest intervention fund to enable domestic airlines operators to stand the test of time.
The President said he had directed the Ministry of Trade and Investment, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria to propose an actionable plan towards the actualization of the programme.