Nigerian airline operators, SaharaReporters can exclusively reveal, borrow helicopters from one another to dupe the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) into issuing them Air Operators’ Certificates (AOCs).
The AOC, which authorizes an operator to carry out specific commercial air transport operations, is issued once the NCAA is satisfied that the operator has the required personnel, assets, and systems to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public.
An operator applying for AOC is required to have an air transport license (ATL) from the NCAA, which permits it to operate scheduled passenger or cargo air services in the country.
A document exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters showed that no fewer than 27 intending operators have applied for the all-important certification. Seven of these, the document showed, are currently dormant, while 11 of the applications are being scrutinised at the fact-finding stage.
Nine others are at different phases.
A source close to one of the AOC applicants told SaharaReporters that some of the operators use the same helicopters previously presented by others to obtain AOCs from the NCAA.
The source disclosed that Omni-Blue Aviation Services, a helicopter charter company, which obtained AOC in 2016, used a borrowed helicopter, Bell 206 ( Registration Number 5N-BQW to obtain AOC from the NCAA.
The same helicopter, he added, is now being used by another company, Quorum Aviation, which is seeking to get its AOC from the NCAA.
The helicopter in question, this website gathered, is currently not airworthy and has been flown to the United States for repairs, a reason the AOC process is stalled.
“Bell 206 with the number 5N-BQW that is being used for AOC acquisition is faulty. Most of the equipment on board have expired and they have had to send it abroad for an overhaul. The NCAAinsisted that the aircraft must be in order before OAC processes could continue.
“The company had to send the aircraft to the US for maintenance, which has further slowed down our processes. The same helicopter was used by Ombi-Blue Aviation Services used to get its AOC from NCAA. After it got the certificate, it returned it to the rightful owner. Now, the company doesn’t have any helicopter in its fleet, but it has an AOC from NCAA,” revealed the source.
He added that nothing is currently happening in the company he works with and the sponsors have told staff that they won’t pay salaries until the AOC is obtained and flight operations commence. When will this be? “We don’t know when it will be,” replied the source.
Bristow Helicopters and OAS Helicopters are two of the major operators using Bell 206 for charter service operations.
Also, most of the companies use one aircraft instead of the two required from AOC applicants by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs).
A source close to a company operating helicopter services told our correspondent that most of the companies borrow aircraft and return them to the owners, effectively duping the NCAA into issuing them AOCs.
In addition, many operators are also said not to be paying their staff the salaries stated in their letters of appointment. They are said to cook up pay slips indicating appropriate salary payments in order to obtain AOCs. There are those who do not pay at all.