Posted by Solomon Asowata, Lagos | 12 November 2018 | 1,355 times
Some of Nigeria’s commercial airlines have the oldest aircraft fleet in Africa, with the age of the aircraft owned by one of them being 28.1 years. But the experts are quick to disconnect aviation safety with the age of an aircraft.
In sharp contrast to the age of airline fleets in Nigeria, major African airlines, such as Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Africa’s oldest, Rwandair, Royal Air Maroc and Kenya Airways have fleets with average age of between 11.4 years and 5.8 years. Rwandair, founded in 2002 and the youngest of the African airlines, has fleet average age of 7.1 years.
A random check of the fleet of Nigeria’s airlines, shows that Arik Air has the youngest fleet of 23 aircraft, with average age of 11 years. Dana Airlines, which started operations in November 2008 has the oldest fleet of a range of McDonnell Douglas MD-80, with one of them, still in use, 28 years and one month old.
But several aviation experts said the age of an aircraft has little relationship with safety issue.
Mr Olumide Ohunayo, Ohunayo, who is a member of the Aviation Round Table Safety Initiative (ART), cited the recent crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 owned by Lion Air aircraft in Indonesia, which killed 189 people on board.
“The Lion Air aircraft was just a few months old and yet it developed mechanical issues which were not checked.
“So, as far as aviation is concerned, what matters is the maintenance schedule enforced on airlines by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and that is what keeps the airspace safe.
“The only problem with using an older aircraft is that you spend more on fuelling and maintenance as an operator compared to using newer models for flight services, ” he said.
Mr Chris Iwarah, Corporate Communications Manager, Air Peace, said the age of the airline’s fleet was irrelevant because of its commitment to safety.
Iwarah said Air Peace spends an average of between $2.5 million and $3.5 million every 18 months to carry out C-check on aircraft in its fleet, stressing that the maintenance was being done in some of the best places in the world.
He said: “As professionals, we cannot be talking about the age of an aircraft because it has no impact on its safety. What matters is maintenance and we use some of the best facilities in the world.
“Three of the planes we started with, we have sold them to a subsidiary of British Airways which they are using for their short haul flights.
“So, if the planes were not air worthy, an organisation like British Airways will not be coming to buy them from us.
“Importantly, you must understand that every single part of an aircraft has its expiring date. Once that time comes, whether you use the plane or not, you must change that part. ”
According to him, Air Peace recent move to acquire brand new planes was not due to safety reasons but based on its business model to reduce fuelling and maintenance costs.
He said :”It is largely due to fuel efficiency that we signed the deal with Boeing to acquire 10 brand new B737 Max 8 aircraft.
“It is not because of age. Most big airlines in the world prefer to use aircraft that have been there and tested in terms of their safety records. British Airways uses some of the oldest aircraft and they are proud of it. ”
On his part, the General Manager, Public Relations, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr Sam Adurogboye, said there is no limit to an aircraft age that can be used for operation globally but that airlines with older fleets spend more to keep them in shape.
“So, it is the operator that takes the decision whether to continue spending more money on the scheduled maintenance as the CAA insist or opt for buying a brand new aircraft.
“If anybody tells you that there is a country that specifies the age limit of an aircraft you can use, that is total falsehood.
“As we speak, the airplane that the American President is using is over 40 years old. It is the same plane that Barack Obama used, it is same plane that George Bush used and it is the same plane that Ronald Reagan used.
“They are simply following the maintenance schedule.”
Adurogboye said all airlines are mandated to adhere strictly to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) safety standards.
Adurogboye said: “You should know that Arik bought some of its aircraft brand new when they started operation. There is no airline that has all its fleet brand new.
“What happens is that they must follow the engineering maintenance process which is called maintenance schedule. The NCAA exist for that purpose and if you follow the process, the aircraft is as good as new. ”
He confirmed that Nigeria airlines are buying newer aircraft, with Air Peace recently signing a deal with Boeing to acquire 10 brand new B737 Max 8. Aero Contractors and others have also placed bookings.
“Even during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government, Nigeria gave out some planes to some African countries and those planes are still being used today. (NAN)
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