Airlines shell out N25bn yearly on maintenance cost

Airline in Nigeria spends about N25billion annually on maintenance cost outside the country as the plan to float a maintenance, overhaul and repair (MRO) facility for aircraft maintenance and checks locally is yet to materialise Daily Trust reports.

The situation has been compounded by the naira depreciation as one dollar now exchanges for between N470 – N490. Daily Trust reports that a comprehensive check on an aircraft costs between $1m and $2m (N490m to N980m), depending on the extent of checks.

The cost of maintenance was less than N200m six years ago when a dollar was exchanged for less than N200.

With over 70 aircraft operated by eight scheduled operators, airlines said they spend about N25bn to maintain their aircraft annually.

Our correspondent reports that airlines have an 18-month window to conduct a comprehensive check on an aircraft as required by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

But in the absence of local MRO facilities, airlines were left with no option than to go abroad where they were required to source for the scarce forex to pay for the maintenance cost.

Air Peace, the biggest airline in the country, recently disclosed that over 17 of its aircraft were stranded in maintenance facilities abroad while other airlines also have their planes undergoing maintenance.

Experts say if the promise of the federal government to set up maintenance facilities had materialised, the burden of domestic airlines would have reduced.

The establishment of MRO is part of the Aviation Development Masterplan of the present administration.

The intent was to lessen the burden of maintaining aircraft in Europe and America or East Africa on the domestic airlines.

But six years later, operators lament the high cost of maintenance and challenged the government to fulfil its promise of setting up MRO facilities.

Director of Engineering at Ibom Air, Engr. Lookman Animashaun said, “If truly we are serious as a nation, we should have gotten MRO now. We should have built on what we had in Nigeria Airways then, rather than liquidating it…

“But, I must tell you that without sustainable MRO in the country, the industry will continue to experience capital flight and what we are experiencing now, which is the moment the aircraft is due for heavy maintenance, it will be taken out, there is no foreign exchange to carry out the maintenance, the aircraft will remain there and the next we are going to hear about the aircraft is that it can’t be sent to Nigeria.

“That is one of the reasons we are having low capacity in the industry as at today.”

Aviation expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) said the cost of maintaining aircraft abroad is too exorbitant.

“It ranges between $500,000 to $2m depending on the required level of maintenance.”

It would be recalled that the federal government recently named preferred bidders for the MRO and Aviation Leasing Company (ALS) under the Aviation Development Roadmap.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika also assured that all the projects under the roadmap including the establishment of a national carrier would be implemented.

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