By Chinedu Eze
According to Thisday investigations some Nigerian airlines are unable to bring back their aircraft taken abroad for routine maintenance due to their inability to pay outrageous maintenance bills, which have tripled because of the low value of Naira.
It learnt that some aircraft have been in different maintenance facilities in Europe, South Africa, Middle East and the US. Some of the airplanes, according to source, had spent more than one year in these facilities.
It was reliably gathered that an airline abandoned about five of its planes in a maintenance hangar due to lack of funds to pay for the services and ferry them back in Nigeria.
Sources at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) confirmed this development, adding that about 25 percent of existing aircraft owned by commercial airlines are on maintenance or AOG (aircraft on ground) either because they are no more airworthy or are due for maintenance.
A major challenge facing the airlines is that they generate revenues in Naira whereas they carry out maintenance and purchase major aircraft parts in foreign currency.
so with the low value of the Naira, the airlines are paying more than twice the maintenance cost they used to pay to carry out C-Check on their aircraft.
Recently the Chairman of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison called on the federal government to make dollars available for the airlines and warned of the dire consequences if airlines are unable to access forex to carry out critical activities like aircraft maintenance.
The consequence is safety breach, which may lead to air crashes, as the airlines may resort to cutting corners in order to keep their aircraft in the air.
“It is no longer news that airlines in Nigeria charge very competitive fares in local currency but have to carry out numerous operational activities including maintenance and purchase of spare parts in foreign currency (Dollars) thereby adding to the already unbearable burden the airlines have to carry on a regular basis. And the current forex constraint being faced by airlines has further exacerbated the situation and threatening to cripple airline operations in the country,” Meggison said.
Airlines, according the checks, pay a minimum of $500, 000 to $700, 000 for engine overhaul and about the same amount of money for C-Check maintenance on a Boeing 737 aircraft