By Louis Iba
Barely 24 hours after Aero Contractors shut down all its scheduled flight operations, another domestic carrier, First Nation Airways, has announced the suspension of its commercial operations in the country.
This comes as aviation unions comprising the Air Traffic Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) took over the head office of the embattled Aero Contractors at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, protesting the suspension of the airline’s scheduled flights and their being locked out from offices without adequate notice.
And just like Aero, First Nation has been operating without the requisite number of functional aircraft to ply its designated routes. Its aircraft are all on routine maintenances abroad and, according to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARS), no airline operator is permitted to carry out scheduled commercial operation with only one aircraft.
Daily Sun learnt that about 2,500 jobs could be lost should the two airlines fail to come back into operation.
Director General of the NCAA, Captain Usman Mukthar, in a statement yesterday acknowledged the suspension of services by the two airlines, noting that they acted in line with regulatory stipulations.
Said Mukhtar: “Any airline with one aircraft is in contravention of the authority’s regulations and therefore cannot be adjudged to be capable of providing safe operation. The only option available is to suspend your operations temporarily while other aircraft arrive in due course.
“However, NCAA’s regulations provide a window for such operator to embark on non-schedule operations in the interim.”
According to the NCAA boss, Aero Contractors at present has only one serviceable aircraft, while First Nation is in the middle of an engine replacement programme for one of its aircraft with the other aircraft in its fleet already due for mandatory maintenance.
“First Nation is currently undergoing maintenance on A319 fleet and this maintenance exercise will be completed on or before September 15, 2016,” said the airline’s spokesman, Serah Awogbade, in a statement yesterday.
Awogbade explained that the airline had faced some operational challenges, which had impacted negatively on its business and efforts to ensure the availability of serviceable aircraft in recent months.
“Present foreign exchange constraint, coupled with over 70 per cent devaluation of the naira contributed in no small measure to this development,” he said.
“Safety is our priority and we look forward to reinstating service shortly upon completion of current maintenance upgrade,” Awogbade added.