The Federal Government has impounded an Embraer 135 jet belonging to Flairjet a UK based operator for flouting the restriction order by operating a commercial flight into the country as opposed to the humanitarian operations it was given approval to do to Nigeria.
The Minister of Aviation Minister, Captain Hadi Sirika, confirmed the development on his official twitter handle saying the flight crew is also being interrogated as there shall be maximum penalty for the offence.
“Flair Aviation, a UK company, was given approval for humanitarian operations but regrettably we caught them conducting commercial flights. This is callous! The craft is impounded, crew being interrogated. There shall be maximum penalty. Wrong time to try our resolve!” Sirika said.
Aviation sources revealed to Daily Sun that an Embraer 135 jet with registration number G-ERFX belonging to Flairjet, an airline that operates from Birmingham airport, UK, came in from Cotonou and landed in Lagos at 12.13pm on Sunday, May 17, 2020 carrying three passengers.
The airline with flight number 3611 was given humanitarian/essential flight approval by the Federal Government early this month but upon landing, it was discovered that the jet was carrying out commercial operations instead of the humanitarian operations that was approved for it.
The crew was arrested and aircraft was immediately impounded and was towed to the Execujet hanger where it currently is pending the conclusion of investigation by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The Federal Government had extended the local and international flight restrictions for four weeks in an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic but domestic airlines are already making preparations for resumption of operations, hopeful that restrictions would be lifted in June.
The corporate affairs manager of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, said domestic carriers have been meeting with regulatory agencies and service providers on the modalities for flight resumptions and the need to avert a total collapse of the industry as they await further directive from the Ministry of Aviation.
He said: “The regulators have spelt out the guidelines. We will follow same and resume when directed. There are ongoing meetings, discussions on the need to avert a total collapse of the industry and the dangers of continued restriction on flights. Even as IATA confirmed that based on evidence, the possibility of contracting COVID-19 in-flight is very low. All of that is going on and hopefully we would have a date when these discussions are concluded.
“We are preparing seriously. Our engineers and maintenance team have been working for the past two months to keep our aircraft in shape so even if asked to resume tomorrow we are fine and our guests are safe. Like I said earlier, we are ready, but we await further directive as a law abiding corporate entity.”
On May 7, 2020, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) directed all airlines operators in the country to notify it of their intentions to resume operations and also make themselves available for a Post Covid-19 restart plan assessment. The agency noted that airlines will only be granted approval to resume operations if they have satisfactorily passed the Post Covid-19 Assessment.
This development was contained in a circular on Post COVID-19 Lockdown Restart Plan Guidelines signed by the NCAA Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu and addressed to airline operators in the country.
According to the circular, ‘’all AOC Holders are required to review, demonstrate and or submit evidence of compliance with the provisions of Advisory Circular NCAA-AC-FSG-001 and its associated appendices before resumption of flight operations. All AOC holders will be required to notify the Authority of their intention to resume operations and will make themselves available to the Authority for a Post Covid-19 restart plan assessment. Upon satisfactory Post Covid-19 restart plan assessment by the authority, the AOC holders will be granted approval to resume operations by the Director General.’’