Aircraft Maintenance has been a huge challenge for domestic airline operators in Nigeria’s aviation sector due the huge financial commitment associated with ferrying the airplanes out of the country for major checks owing to lack of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul(MRO) facility for such detailed repairs.
Chief Executive Officer, IbomAir, Mfon Udom said the MRO when completed in December will be the first of its kind in the West African region, noting that the facility is big enough to accommodate all aircraft types.
Udom who stated this at the airline’s office in Uyo while receiving the Chief Executive Officer, Akwaaba Travel Market and Organiser, Abuja Jabamah, Ambassador Ikechi Uko, stated the facility will also have a simulator to facilitate the training of professional in the airline’s employ.
Ambassador Ikechi Uko had come to invite IbomAir to the 2021 Edition of Abuja Jabamah. IbomAir won the Award as the Best Airline in Nigeria for 2020.
Capt. Udom said: “I must say that IbomAir is lucky to have this facility because we are operating out of a home base that has an MRO business, which is about 70% completed. But recently, the government of Akwa Ibom had engaged a contractor to complete it this year, and we expect it to be completed towards the end of the year.
“It is very important for our operation. And let me explain further because people have a misconception about this MRO facility in Akwa Ibom. It is not just a maintenance hangar. You know a hanger is just a shed where you put your aircraft to maintain it, but the MRO has shops to take care of the components. So, you get certification from the original equipment manufacturer, to be able to work on different components of the airplane. It is a very technical, and it involves a lot. And what that does to an airline is to reduce the maintenance costs significantly. One of our airplane is due for heavy maintenance, because the MRO is not ready, we will have to fly to Europe.
“Not only the cost associated with it, because there is also cost, even if we do it here. You lose the days of your utilization of the aircraft when you fly it out and back.
This MRO is configured to operate 24 hours. You have dormitories inside the entire facility and then you have the shops. So, as you put the aircraft in the hangar, some other people are working in the shops, let’s say landing gears, the components, the avionics component goes to avionics shop, while the inspection is ongoing all at the same time.
“So, it is very key to stabilising our operation and turning consistent, profitable years. So, now it’s even more important with new airplanes we are coming in with, because to build a capacity, we will have to build it with the manufacturer. They will set up the operation in the MRO and train the locals, after many years we will be able to handle it ourselves.
On aircraft type the MRO facility will be handling the Ibom Air boss said: “It depends on the aircraft we chose, we are going to take that decision at the middle of this year. Let’s suppose we chose the Airbus A220, all those shops will be tailored towards the A220. But the MRO is bigger than one airline, so other airlines can come in. Let’s say they operate more of 777, there will be capacity to fix the 777 as well.
“Of course, we will be handling CRJ as well. We will be considering the Embraer if there is enough number in West Africa, because you know you can’t set up for a few airplanes. For us we are setting up for a minimum of 10 aircraft. So, if Air Peace completes the acquisition of 15 Embraer it ordered for then we will be doing the Embraer.
“You can’t invest money on old aeroplanes, you have to focus on the new airplanes. Like for us it is the new Airbus’ we are looking at. We have Air Senegal, Air Tanzania, EgyptAir, Uganda and then of course, you know how this thing goes, Airbus will find it necessary to upgrade to different models of their aircraft. But thank God, the vision was good and the state built a big MRO, so this space is enough to accommodate airplanes from West Africa. This will be the first MRO in West Africa. Also it is going to have a simulator, once we sign up with CAE to start building simulator.”