Nigerian airlines, presidential fleet, Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Police spend an estimated $2.5 billion annually in conducting C-check and other levels of aircraft maintenance overseas.
According to THISDAY report, most of the funds are expended on the technical personnel, airframe maintenance, landing gear, engine overhaul, and aircraft spares.
Aeronautical engineers, airline operators and pilots told THISDAY that this amount would have been halved if Nigeria has major Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, a leasing company, which could also supply spares and simulators for the training of pilots.
It was gathered that the high cost of maintenance is responsible for the short lifespan of Nigerian carriers, which operate for average of 10 years.
The long time spent in taking aircraft overseas has forced airlines to incur losses, making it difficult for domestic airlines to survive.
Former Aero Contractors’ Maintenance Engineer, who is now the Chief Executive Officer of Seven Star Global, a major maintenance facility that just berthed in Nigeria, Mr. Isaac Balami, told THISDAY that airframe maintenance alone costs Nigeria $1 billion annually at the average of $1 million per aircraft.
“Airlines expend about $1 million on the maintenance of airframe alone and not to talk about the maintenance of landing gear and engine, which have different maintenance programme. These amounts are spent by Nigerian airlines, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigeria Air Force, the Nigeria Police, the Presidential Fleet and others that operate fixed-wing aircraft. Maintenance cost is in terms of hardware and software,” Balami said.
He explained that huge cost of conducting checks on aircraft overseas does not jeopardize the safety of the Nigerian fleet because concerning commercial airliners, the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is monitoring all the airlines, but the huge cost has ensured that no Nigerian airline has existed for over 10 years, noting that Aero Contractors, which was established in 1959 started having problems 10 years after it went into scheduled commercial operation.
“The high cost of maintenance may not have any effect on aircraft safety but it is one of the reasons why Nigerian airlines cannot fly for more than 10 years. You can recall that Arik and Aero started having problems after they were 10 years. Aero was established in 1959 but went into commercial operations and 10 years after, it started having problems. This is difficult because after expending 40 percent of your resources on fuel and you spend 30 percent of your resources on maintenance, it becomes very difficult for you to survive,” he said.
He said that one major reason Nigerian airlines go under is that of the delay in ferrying the aircraft overseas, noting that every day a Boeing B737 is left on the ground, the airline loses $100,000.