Domestics aircraft operators will spend over N560 billion on aircraft maintenance this year, investigations have revealed.
The money will cover major aircraft checks in Europe, Asia, America, South Africa, Ethiopia and Morocco.
The checks include “C and D” under which major components of aircraft are stripped and reworked.
Osun Defender recalls the State of Osun in partnership with the federal government embarked on building a Maintenance Repairs Overhaul (MRO) facility in Ido Osun, but the for failure of the federal government to release its 50% counterpart funds has stalled the project.
According to investigations over 200 aircraft are on the regulatory register for scheduled, private / charter operators and training aircraft.
In 2013, the operators spent over $1.22 billion (N200 billion) when the exchange rate was N200 to $1 on maintenance because of lack of such facility at home.
Nigeria has over 200 aircraft (scheduled, charter and privately owned), which are taken abroad for major repairs.
South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Ethiopia have workable Maintenance Repairs Overhaul (MRO) facilities, and airports that operate as hubs.
The process of taking aircraft abroad for repairs, according to engineers, takes a minimum of two weeks with a corresponding loss of about $500,000 (N160 million) for C-Check on Boeing 737. A smaller aircraft, such as, Embraer 190 or 100 would cost $300,000 (N110 million) during the same period. Many of the airlines take their aircraft abroad for repairs at exorbitant costs.
The aircraft are on queue for weeks before they are attended.
Given the complex facility requirements and the cost, it may be difficult for an airline to build a maintenance hangar in Nigeria.
Last weekend, some experts including Managing Director of Toucan Aviation Support Services Mr Achuzie Ezenagu and former Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Dr Harold Demuren called for the establishment of facility in Nigeria.
They said the country would continue to lose huge money to repairing aircraft overseas until it has such a facility.
A former spokesman for Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Mohammed Tukur, called for partnership between the government and private investors to establish a local maintenance facility. According to him, it could save the airlines over 50 per cent of maintenance costs and make Nigeria a technical hub for aircraft maintenance. MRO costs encompass both the outgoing charges and the revenue loss during the out-of-service period.
The maintenance checks types are ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’. ‘A’ and ‘B’ checks are lighter checks; ‘C’ and ‘D’ are considered more intensive. ‘B-Check’ requires a large number of components to be inspected as the aircraft is put out of service and kept in the hangar until the checks are completed.
‘D-Check’ is the most comprehensive and expensive among the checks. It is usually referred to as Heavy Maintenance Visit (HMV), involving the entire aircraft for inspection and overhaul. The paints may also need to be completely removed for detailed inspection of the fuselage structural integrity.
The airlines cough out millions of dollars for ‘C and D Checks’.
Former Director of Operations of the defunct Nigeria Airways, Capt. Dele Ore, said airlines that lease aircraft were required to pay into one or more maintenance reserve accounts in order to provide for future maintenance expenditures.
This, he said, would have been another boost to the Nigerian economy, but regrettably it is an alternative forgone.
Ore said: “It may, however, be viable for major players such as Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Medview Airline and others, to participate on building hangar projects.” He regretted that the issues of modern and licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME) need to be given serious considerations.”
He said building a MRO facilitiy in Nigeria would save carriers huge revenue on aircraft maintenance overseas, and reduce capital flights.
Nigeria is said to have the largest and most modern commercial aircraft fleet in West and Central Africa, but lacks an MRO facility.
Its airlines have been urged to build a cooperative alliance with global industry stakeholders, including viable investors that support an indigenous and economically viable MRO facility that would address the industry needs and aspirations.