Africa: Nigeria’s depleting aircraft fleet

Less than a quarter of the 445 aircraft registered by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) are airborne. A raft of unfriendly government policies pegging the age limit on operating aircraft, prohibitive offshore maintenance cost, rising operating costs and other factors have reduced the airlines’ fleet, KELVIN OSA OKUNBOR reports

Aircraft registered in Nigeria by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA’s) Directorate of Airworthiness and Standards (DAWS).
Names of Airline                            Number                    Aircraft Type(s) operated
Aero Contractors                            26                            Boeing, Dash 8, Helicopters
Air Peace                                       25                            Boeing, Embraer
Allied Air                                         7                            Boeing
ANAP Jets                                        3                           Embraer
Arik Air                                           26                           Boeing, Q400, CRJ,
Associated Aviation                          13                           LearJets Boeing, Embraer.
AZM AN Aviation                                3                           Boeing
Barbados Aviation                              4                         Embraer, Hawker 900 XP, Learjet
Bristow Helicopter                            35                         Sikorsky, Bell Citator, Embraer,
Capital Airline                                    3                          Embraer,
Caverton Helicopter                          31                          Agusto, Sirkosky, DHE, Bill,
Chanchangi Airline                            13                          Boeing
Dana Air                                          11                          Boeing, MD 83, learjet
Dormer Aviation Air                          17                          Beechcraft, DD, Air Beatle.
Executive Jets                                    7                          Hawker, Boeing, Embraer HS.
First Nation Airways                            2                          Airbus 319 – 113
Genesis Global                                    6                         EC-155 B,
HAK Air                                               8                         Boeing 737 – 400
IBOM Air                                             3                          CRJ 900
IRS                                                   12                          Fokker 28 MK100,
KABO Air                                           10                          Boeing
Kings Airline                                         4                         HS 125, Boeing
Medview Airline                                     5                         Boeing
NCAT                                                  25                Beech Baron , Tampico, TBM, BELL,
Overland Airways                                   9                EMB, ATR 42, Beechcraft

A SWARM of locusts has hit the aviation industry resulting in the reduction of indigenous carriers and their fleet.

Though Nigeria has the highest number of indigenous carriers on the African continent; it regrettably has the highest airlines’ failure rate.

Experts say the rise and fall of carriers in Nigeria presents a sad commentary of the downsides of the aviation business.

Many reasons have, however, been adduced for the high attrition rate of carriers in Nigeria ranging from a poor business plan; utilisation or unsuitability of wrong equipment, poor government policies pegging age limit for aeroplanes; prohibitive airport/air navigation charges; poor business plans by their owner managers and unfriendly business climate.

Despite the high attrition rate, more investors continue to express their desire to set up airlines. Investigations reveal that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is processing Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) for three new carriers.

The airlines are United Nigeria Airways, with headquarters in Enugu. Checks reveal that the promoters of the carrier have acquired some Boeing and Embraer aircraft for anticipated operations and have recruited pilots and other technical personnel.

The other carriers are Green African Airways and Jet Airlines.
In the last few decades, over 150 carriers have opened and closed shops in the airline sub-sector in Nigeria.

The airlines include ADC Airlines, Afrijet Airlines, Air Mid-West, Al-Dawood Air, Albarka Air Services, Freedom Air Services, Associated Aviation, Bellview Airlines, Capital Airlines, Chrome Air Services, Dasab Airlines, Earth Airlines, EAS Airlines, Easy Link Aviation, Elders Colonial Airways, Fresh Air, First Nation Airways, IRS Airlines, NICON Airways, Nigeria Airways Limited, Okada Air, Premium Air Shuttle, Savannah Airlines, Skyline Nigeria, Slok Air, Sosoliso Airlines, TAT Airlines, Triax Airlines, Wings Aviation, Afrijet Airlines, Chanchangi Airlines, Spaceworld Airlines, Oriental Airlines, among others.

Currently, many airlines in the scheduled and non-scheduled categories are in operation. They include Air Peace, Arik Air, Dana Air, Overland, Medview Airlines, AZMAN Air, Max Air, Jed Air, Allied Air, Bristow Helicopters, Omni Blue Airlines, Ibom Air, Air Taraba, Rivers Airlines, Skybrid Air, Barbedos Group Limited, Dornier Aviation Nigeria Aiep and others.

Data sourced from the Directorate of Airworthiness Standards (DAWS) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), indicate that about 445 aircraft are registered to operate in the country’s airspace.

These 445 aircraft carry the Nigerian Registration Code (5N), which is written on the body of the aircraft as an identification code in line with regulatory requirements.

These 445 aircraft, The Nation, investigations reveal, besides being registered in Nigeria, are approved by their owners/operators to carry out commercial; scheduled; private and non- scheduled flights.

While some are owned hundred per cent by the airlines that acquired them; some were purchased by their owners and put on the fleet of some carriers to operate. Some governmental organisations, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), acquired some aeroplanes and helicopters managed by some carriers, including Aero Contractors of Nigeria.

A breakdown of the figures indicates that out of the 445 aircraft, many are in scheduled operations. Others are either involved in charter or what the NCAA describes as “Hire and Reward “.

Others are used by private individuals and organisations as corporate jets.

For proper oversight on such aircraft, the NCAA, a few years ago, created the Directorate of General Aviation, to see to the conformity of these aircraft and their operators to prescribed regulations.

Investigations reveal that there is a preponderance of Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer and ATR aircraft on the fleet of many indigenous carriers.

While some carriers, including Overland Airways, use the same aircraft type – ATR 42 – which in aviation parlance is described as fleet commonality; others have a mixed fleet comprising different aeroplane types-Boeing, Bombardier, Airbus, Embraer and others.

According to checks by The Nation, Air Peace leads the pack with 25 serviceable aircraft currently in its fleet.

The airline plans to increase it to 35, with its order of 10 Boeing 737 – 800 Max.

The airline plans to grow the fleet size to 65 with the recent order of 30 Embraer Regional Jets in few years.

Confirming this in a recent statement to mark its fifth anniversary, its Chief Operating Officer, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Olajide, said from seven aircraft at launch on October 24, 2014, Air Peace now has 25 aircraft in its fleet, excluding the 10 brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 30 Embraer 195-E2 aircraft it recently ordered.

Besides Air Peace, Arik Air also commands a large fleet with over nine serviceable aircraft out of over 30 aircraft in its fleet.

Investigations reveal that the airline is making efforts to ferry in more aircraft, which have been taken out for offshore maintenance in many parts of the world.

Dana Air on its part has also taken steps to boost its fleet size with the recent acquisition of two Boeing 737 aircraft to boost its fleet commonality of Mc Donalds Douglass (MD 83) aeroplanes.

Medview Airlines, on its part, also has many aircraft on its fleet, majorly, Boeing 737 and Boeing 777 aircraft to boost its domestic; regional; inter-continental and Hajj operations.

The 445 aircraft carrying Nigerian registration according to the data sourced from the NCAA’s Directorate of Airworthiness Standards include Aero Contractors, Air Nigeria, Allied Air, Ambjek Air, ANAP Jets, Arik Air, Associated Aviation, Azikel Air Limited, AZMAN Air, Barbedos Aviation, Brinkle Aero Flying Club, Bristow Helicopters, Capital Airlines, Caverton Helicopters, Chanchangi Airlines, Dana Air, Dornier Aviation Nigeria Aiep, Eagle Flying Club, Executive Jets Services Limited, First Nation Airways, Genesis Global Aviation and Government of Rivers State.

Others are Gyro Air, Limited, Hak Air, Ibom Air, IRS Airlines, Jedidiah Air Limited, Kabo Air, Kings Airlines, Jet Support Leasing Equipment Services, Max Air, Medview Airlines, OAS Helicopters, OMNI – BLU Aviation Limited, Overland Airways, SkyBird Air, SkyJet Aviation Services, Skypower Express Airways, Souther Airlines Limited, TopBrass Aviation, Triax Airlines Limited, Tropical Arctic Logistics Limited, Westlink Airlines and others.

The NCAA data on the 445 aircraft reveals that Aero Contractors has 26 aircraft in its fleet comprising Boeing aeroplanes, Dash 8 Q400 and some helicopters. First Nation Airways, the data indicated, has three Airbus 319 -113 aeroplane type; whereas Genesis Global Aviation has six aircraft mainly EC- 155B variant.

Hak Air, the data indicated, has eight aircraft mainly Boeing 737 -400 variant. Ibom Air, the data indicated, has three Bombardier CRJ 900 aeroplane type. IRS Airlines has 12 Fokker 28 MK 100S and 400 variant.

Kabo Air has 10 Boeing aircraft, while Max Air has nine Boeing aeroplane type; Medview Airlines has five Boeing aircraft with Overland Airways possessing nine aeroplanes with a mixed fleet of Embraer, ATR 24 and Beechcraft.

Investigations by The Nation revealed that less than a quarter of the 4445 aircraft registered in Nigeria are serviceable. While some of the carriers that registered them have ceased to operate; some of the aircraft are trapped overseas at maintenance facilities.

Airlines require over a million dollars to undertake major repairs on their aircraft, which in aviation parlance is described as C-Check.
C-check involves a complete overhaul of the aircraft usually carried out overseas.

Many Nigerian carriers have abandoned their aeroplanes at maintenance facilities in Ethiopia, Morroco, United States, Far and Middle East countries as well as Europe.

Compared with some African countries, namely Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Cape Verde and others, the fleet size of Nigerian carriers presents a mixed bag given its over 100 years of aviation history.

Speaking on the matter, aviation expert and former General Secretary of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Nick Fadugba said the combined fleet size of all Nigerian carriers is less than the fleet of United Arab Emirates carrier-Emirates.

As of August last year, Emirates operated a fleet of more than 250 aircraft. The Emirates operates the largest fleet of both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft in the world, with one A319 as an executive jet. The Emirates has had no narrow-body aircraft in its mainline fleet since 1995.

He said with such lean aircraft fleet, Nigerian carriers would find it difficult to compete with mega carriers, which enjoy many operational benefits on the global alliances they have signed up to.

An airline alliance, according to experts is an aviation industry arrangement connection within countries.

There are three global airlines’ alliances, namely One World; SkyTeam and Star Alliance.

As of April, last year, Star Alliance was the largest of the three global alliances by passenger count with 762.27 million, ahead of both SkyTeam (630 million) and Oneworld (528 million).

In other climes, the fleet size of aircraft presents an intimidating profile.

While Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa currently has about 118 aircraft in its fleet, consisting of Airbus A350, Boeing 787-8, Boeing 787-9, Boeing 777-300ER.

As of August, this year, the Kenya Airways fleet had 41 aircraft.
South African Airways fleet comprises over 50 aircraft, including the Airbus A319, A320, A340 and Boeing 737 aeroplanes.

According to Statista .com, a global portal on airline statistics, the number of aircraft in the United States has been steadily increasing, with last year’s estimates holding that the general aviation fleet put at 213,375 aircraft whereas aircraft for-hire carrier fleet was put at 7,397 aircraft.

More than 90 per cent of the roughly 220,000 civil aircraft registered in the United States are for general aviation aircraft.

More than 80 per cent of the 609,000 pilots certificated in the U.S. fly general aviation aircraft.

There are an estimated 27,000 civil aircraft registered in the United Kingdom (UK), 96 per cent of which are engaged in general aviation activities.

In 2017, there were 5,593 civil aircraft in China, which was an increase of approximately 547 aircraft from 5,046 in the previous year.


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