Chairman, Air Nigeria, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim, has denied the alleged grounding of the operations of the airline by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority as reported in some media.
Ibrahim also said that for Nigeria airlines to be rated as among the safest airlines in the globe, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Aviation, should make membership of the International Air Transport Association compulsory.
Speaking at the media briefing at the conglomerate’s headquarters in Lagos, Ibrahim emphasised that NCAA had no basis for grounding the operations of the airline, stressing that the airline complies with all the international standards safety regulations.
Displaying a memo written to the airline by the Director, Airworthiness Standards, NCAA, Engr. Patrick Ekunwe, dated 12th June, 2012 with the reference number: NCAA/DAWS.002/12/VOL.1/149 with the title ‘Domestic and Regional Flight operations of Air Nigeria,’ Ibrhaim appealed to the media to always confirm any conflicting report from the airline for clarification purpose.
The memo reads in part: “Please be informed that Air Nigeria has been cleared by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to resume its normal domestic and regional flight operations. Please grant them the necessary flight clearances accordingly.”
He explained that it was normal for NCAA to recertify the aircraft of the airline after some of its indigenous airlines went on strike for close to a week because of welfare purpose.
He said, “Air Nigeria cannot be grounded. It has no reason for it to be grounded. It’s the safety airline in Nigeria as at today. We belong to IATA and we are audited by IOSA. We have been a member of IATA for the past six years and we are the oldest in the West Africa.
“We are the safest airline in Nigeria today. Let other airlines operating in the country submit their papers for IOSA audit. Sincerely, NCAA has done its audit well and we were given clean bill of health. We today operate international operations and I want you to know that if we were not safe, we won’t be given the clearance to fly to Europe by the authorities there.”
Also, Ibrahim said that for Nigerian airlines to be given the needed respect and recognition in the world and for air travelers to have confidence in the operations of the airlines once again, Federal Government should make it mandatory for all indigenous operators to belong to IATA.
He emphasised that with this, their operations would be periodically audited by IOSA, maintaining that until this is done, air travellers would continue to be pessimistic about the safety of the airlines.
For instance, he said Air Nigeria had been a member of the association in the last six years and since the safety audits were carried out every nine months, the airline had not been found wanting in its operations.
On the age of aircraft in the airline’s fleet, Ibrahim noted that average age of the airlines was nine years old while its Embraer aircraft is barely three years old, stressing that the airline was not in the class of airlines with 22 years old aircraft in their fleet.
He stated that although, the regular maintenance of aircraft is the most important way by which a good and safe aircraft would be known, but also said that the age of the airplanes too matters in air operations.
He added, “For instance, the Airbus 330-200 that we use for Lagos-London route is barely six years old. If you look at the fleet of other airlines in the world, they are relatively new.
The old aircraft we should note don’t have the modern devices in- built in new aircraft.
Technology is very key and old planes should be avoided in Nigeria’s airspace.”
On its operations to London, he said that the airline could not carry a full load of passengers immediately, but assured that the load factors had been on the increase since the commencement of the route.
He reassured that in the next few months, the airline would have full load of passengers on the route and other international routes it’s planning commencing.
Ibrahim further informed that since the current management took over, it had remitted over N428m as tax to the Lagos State Government, insisting that the management had at no time defaulted in the remittances of its taxes to the government.
On the presidential committee set up by the Federal Government to audit the indigenous airlines, Ibrahim said the step was not a wrong move, but the NCAA is the only statutory body recognised by law to carry out audit of all airlines in the country.
He said that for the committee to carryout acceptable work, it was important it worked with NCAA. “There is nothing wrong in a committee checking the books of airlines in the country. Again, Mr. President can use his discretion on how he can move the sector forward. He needs to be certain sure of whatever NCAA is doing.”