Stories by Louis Ibah
Investors in Nigeria’s airline industry have lamented their foreign currency losses occasioned by the absence of storage airports to keep newly purchased aircraft. This has made storage airports in Europe or the United States of America the only option left to Nigerian airline operators to keep their equipment pending when they would be deployed.
But according to the Chairman/CEO of Air Peace Airlines, it has become imperative for the Federal Government to take some steps to establish at least two storage airports in Nigeria to mitigate some of the financial losses suffered by local airlines in patronising foreign storage airports. He also suggested that the storage airports be sited in the northern part of the country.
“There are lots of potential that we have not fully tapped in the Nigerian aviation sector. And the storage airport is one of them,” said Onyema. If the Federal Government can establish these airports, then Nigeria will earn a lot of revenue out of it, just as additional jobs would be created for citizens,” he added.
What is a storage airport?
Storage airports serve a lot of purposes. Aside keeping newly acquired aircraft for airlines, storage airports are also used by aircraft manufacturers to exhibit newly built aircraft for prospective buyers. It can also be used to store old or spolit aircraft pending when they can be repaired.
Some storage airports also serve as tourist sites for those eager to have a glimpse of either older or newly built aircraft. At present, there is no functional facility where aircraft can be stored anywhere in the Central and West African-sub region. And this means that establishing one in Nigeria could go a long way in generating revenue for the government as well as generating thousands of jobs for Nigerians.
Why northern Nigeria
Planes are expensive to build and maintain.. And to protect aircraft during their storage from wind and sun damage, aircraft must be stored in humid conditions where they can remain warm and dry.
Onyema said the desert conditions in some northern states – dry heat, low humidity, little rain – means that aircraft stored there would take a lot longer to rust and degrade.
What’s more, underneath the top six inches of dirt topsoil in deserts is a clay-like sub layer called caliche. This extremely hard subsoil allows the planes to be parked in the desert without the need to fear they would go bad.
All aircraft storage airports around the world are sited in desert environments since the dry conditions reduce corrosion and the hard ground does not need to be paved. He called on the Federal Government to establish one or two aircraft storage airports in the northern part of this country. “I have suggested the northern part of the country because of their type of climate which favours storage airports better than the climate that we have in the southern part of the country,” Onyema said.
“If we establish one or two storage airports, I tell you that there would be lots of airlines, not just the ones in Nigeria, but from within the West African sub-region, Africa and other continents, that would come to Nigeria to patronise these storage airports,” he added.
A storage airport is a facility that allows airlines from all over the world and aircraft manufacturers with brand new aircraft that have not been purchased to display or keep their aircraft. So you can imagine the revenue and jobs that would be created in Nigeria if a manufacturing company is paying to displaying new aircraft in our storage airports and people from other countries are also coming in to make enquiry about the new aircraft. Similar facilities exist around the world, in countries like the U.K., Spain, France, Australia among others are generating incomes for the owners and jobs for citizens.
The government has to do something about this.
“In Air Peace, for instance, we have acquired three Boeing aircraft which we cannot bring into the country right now, but we are keeping them in dry storage airport in France,” said Onyema
“And we are paying for their stay in that storage airport. So you can appreciate what I mean when I said there are lots of untapped opportunities in the Nigerian aviation industry that we need to harness. This is just one of them,” Onyema added.
The storage airport can also serve as ‘boneyards’ where some of the obsolete aircraft dotting airports all over Nigeria can be taken to and dismantled for other purposes. Some aircraft kept in such facility can be stripped for spare parts. In fact, some of the obsolete aircraft kept in the facility can be made airworthy by engineers.