The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Monday downgraded the operations of First Nation Airways, one of Nigeria’s domestic carriers, from scheduled services to charter.
This came after the embattled airline operated for nine months with one aircraft in contravention of the civil aviation regulations, which provide a minimum of three aircraft for any airline operating scheduled domestic service.
The NCAA had earlier granted the airline waiver to operate with one aircraft to enable it re-fleet but the airline failed to increase the fleet size during the grace period.
Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman disclosed that the airline has abandoned its certificate of airworthiness to charter operations.
Usman spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing reassessment of the Nigerian Aviation industry which commenced on Monday.
The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is carrying out the audit to ascertain the level of compliance of Nigeria CAA with international best practices.
He also said the authority is working with the airline to ensure the payment of the N33.5 million sanctions imposed on it for violating safety procedures in the industry.
Usman pointed out that the status of the airline as a non-scheduled carrier would remain until it increases its aircraft fleet to at least two and would have to meet the requirements for scheduled services.
He reiterated that the sanction was not intended to be punish the airline but to put it in the right order of global standard and recommended practices.
He said: “Yes, they use one aircraft and they were on scheduled services, but the present status now is that the certificate of the airworthiness of the status has been changed to non-scheduled service, which is charter service. So, they are no longer into scheduled service until they are able to meet the requirement for scheduled service.
“I will still reconfirm to you that whatever sanction we impose on any operator, it is in line with Civil Aviation Regulation and it’s not punitive, but corrective. FirstNation was sanctioned, they appealed but the appeal was dismissed.”
On the audit by the FAA team led by Mr. Louis Avrez, International Technical Support, Usman said the regulatory agency was prepared to retain the Category One Status it attained in 2010.
The Cat 1 is usually awarded to a country that has airline operating to US. The status was conferred on Nigeria at a time Arik Airline was commencing operations to the US.
The NCAA DG recalled that Nigeria attained the new status in 2010 and retained it in 2014 after a comprehensive audit of the industry, expressing optimism that the status would be sustained.
The DG noted that the FAA team would focus its audit on Personnel Licensing, International Operations and Airworthiness, saying the NCAA is fully prepared.
He stressed that the FAA team would be in the country for the next five days after which they would make their observations known through a report that would be sent to the authority after the exercise.
He said: “NCAA has done a lot in the areas that we are expected to cover and not only for this audit, in our statutory responsibilities; safety, aviation security and also regulations. We have the new civil aviation bill, which is on its way to the National Assembly. The bill is to enhance the current Act of 2006 and it’s supposed to be in line with the new annexes of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Convention.”
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