Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - At least four Nigerian airlines will be grounded while many others will be severely affected if the federal government implements its plan to lower the age-limit of commercial aircraft allowed to operate in the country from 22 to 15 years, the local Punch newspaper reported Monday.
The paper said the plan would also affect a total of 38 jetliners, representing 60 per cent of the entire fleet of Nigerian operators
It listed the airlines that would be grounded totally, under the policy, as FirstNation Airlines, Dana Air, IRS Airlines and Chanchangi Airlines, all with planes older than 15 years.
At last week's Safety Conference of African Aviation Ministers in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah said the government was already considering lowering the age limit of aircraft that could operate in the country to 15 years.
She admitted that the policy could have a short-term negative impact on the desire to encourage the growth of domestic airlines, but added that the issue should be how to strengthen and enhance airlines’ viability as business concerns.
“We will continue to encourage domestic airlines not only to grow in their individual capacities but also to consolidate wherever possible, so as to pool resources together for the emergence of more stable, viable and profitable airlines,” she said.
The proposed policy followed the public outcry that greeted the revelation that the Dana Air's MD-83 plane that crashed in Lagos 3 June, killing all 153 on board and six more on the ground, was over 20 years in age.
Punch said the statistics on age and histories of Nigerian airlines’ planes, which it obtained from planespotters.net, showed that at least 38 out of the 64 Nigerian commercial planes were over 15 years old.
The paper quoted the General Secretary, Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Muhammed Joji, as saying the policy is wrong and would be challenged by the operators
“We will challenge it. The policy is not part of any international regulation. We will hold a press conference on it. Where do we get money to buy new planes?'' he queried.
''Some airlines may like it because it is designed to favour them. The National Assembly had mentioned it during the public hearing on Dana crash but we challenged it. International regulation does not impose any age limit on any aircraft. All they say is obey the standard recommended practices on the aircraft. That means that as far as you are doing the maintenance, no problem,” Joji said.
Also former Director of Operation of the liquidated national carrier, Nigerian Airways, retired Capt. Dele Ore, said the proposed policy would make Nigeria a laughing stock in the international community.
“This is one policy that will wreck and destroy the aviation industry if the government should go ahead to announce it. Nigeria will be the only country in the world that is taking a decision that is not scientific but based on sentiment and politics. This will make us a laughing stock in the international community.
''Which airline can afford to buy a single new aircraft as of now, much more buying up to 30 planes for an effective operation? If all the banks in Nigeria are combined, they cannot finance the airlines to buy new airplanes. It is going to be counterproductive. It means they want to shut down and we will have only one airline operating. Just because we had a single accident and we want to bring down the whole industry,” Ore said.
-0- PANA SEG 23July2012