Survival quest of local airlines in Nigeria received a boost yesterday as Aero Contractors' Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) flagged off C-check services of aircraft locally.
The local maintenance services, a cheering news for the industry, was on the heels of Tuesday's approval granted by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the airline to conduct C-checks on Boeing 737 classic aircraft type in Nigeria.
The maintenance facility is currently the first of such in Nigeria and in West Africa. Its attendant promises of offering local airlines a more cost effective alternative and shorter downtime will enhance the chances of survival of local airlines and lesser pressure on foreign exchange as the expensive service can now be paid for in Naira.
And in respect of enormous spare parts and aircraft tools that the services will require, the airline has appealed to the Federal Government to support the initiative with free movement of imported parts and equipment into the country.
The Guardian last week reported that the absence of a functional maintenance and repair facility in the country, at least in the last 17 years, accounts for at least N22.3 billion local airlines spent yearly repairing planes overseas.
The mandatory maintenance programme, ranging from minor to complex, could per session and on an aircraft, cost over $1 million (N305 million), which is a huge sum on already struggling local airlines having multiple planes.
According to Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, a C-check is mandatory every 18 months for commercial aircraft. The service requires a large majority of the aircraft's components to be inspected in a maintenance programme, lasting about two weeks.
Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi, yesterday told reporters that the approval was, therefore, a good news for the aviation industry.
Sanusi recalled that Aero had earlier received an AMO certification from the NCAA in 2011, which allowed the airline to carry out third party maintenance for other airlines.
With the latest approval, all Boeing 737 classic type, ranging from B737-300, B737-400 and B737-500 series can now undergo C-checks at the airlines' terminal in Lagos. There are at least 24 of such aircraft in commercial operations in Nigeria.
He added that the significant achievement is a major instrument in the turn-around efforts of the airline in particular, and the industry in general.
Head of the maintenance organisation, James Ominyi, added that they are currently in partnership with the South African Airways Technical (SAAT), Ethiopian Airlines Maintenance and Engineering, among others for expertise and standards.
Ominyi said while expansion of their Lagos hanger will continue into second and third phase for bigger aircraft types, the current facility is equipped for between eight to 12 C-checks a year.
In another development, former workers of the defunct Nigerian Airways yesterday took to the streets in Lagos, to protest delay in the payment of their severance package in excess of N78 billion for about 6000 workers.
The protesters, most of them elderly, weak and sick, expressed worries on continual silence from the Ministries of Transportation and Finance since the largesse was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari over a year ago.