By Louis Iba
First Nation Airways has resumed scheduled flight operations in Nigeria after it shutdown operations two weeks ago to allow for maintenance work on two of its aircraft.
The airline had fixed September 15, 2016 to relaunch its operation, but it was unable to meet the deadline due to its inability to get imported aircraft spares into the country on time. This afternoon, the airline eventuality hit the sky with its Lagos – Abuja and Lagos – Port Harcourt flights going and returning uninterrupted.
“We are delighted that our operation is back with very strong passenger demand despite the break and this patronage reinforces the strength of our brand and the quality of our service,” said the airline’s spokesman, Rasheed Yusuff.
“Our flight commenced on Sunday, September 18, 2016. The Airline reaffirms her commitment to her flight operations and remains bullish about Nigeria’s economic outlook and her operations. We are currently working on expanding our fleet as well,” Yusuff added.
First Nation Airways had cited it’s inability to source for Foreign Exchange (Forex) with the ever changing Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policies and Rate of Exchange (ROE) as reasons for not being able to carry out the mandatory maintenances on its two aircraft abroad. The airline said it operates just two aircraft and once the two had problems, as it recently had and such faults could not be immediately fixed, it was better in the interest of safety to temporary suspend operations until the air worthiness state of the aircraft could be guaranteed. The current Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) regulations however requires an airline engaged in scheduled commercial operations to have a minimum of three aircraft in its fleet. Asked why First Nation was flying just two aircraft instead of three as mandated by the NCAA, the airline’s Director of Flight Operations, Capt. Chimara Imediegwu explained that when the airline got its licence the law had required just two aircraft as prerequisite and not three. He said that the NCAA only increased the minimum fleet requirement to three for new entrants while allowing existing operators who had two aircraft to remain in operation
“The challenges of sourcing for forex with the constantly changing CBN policies and Rate of Exchange leaves us sometimes in situations where aircraft parts cannot be obtained when ordered from abroad due to bank’s inability to transfer funds timely enough,” said Imediegwu.
“We suffer repeated failures in our bidding systems to get slots at foreign maintenance facilities because of the disruptions of these forex transfers. And to reduce the disruptions, airline operators are sometimes compelled to source forex from the parallel market at cut-throat rate, even though the sums required are mostly in hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he added.
The Director Of Flight Operations, stated that having contended with these challenges, the airline planned well ahead and kept the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) informed of the progress of the maintenance of its aircraft Recalled that the airline had in an online statement stated that it suspended flight operations, because it was carrying out maintenance on A319 fleet and that this maintenance exercise will be completed on or before September 15, 2016.