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Aviation industry stakeholders have continued to applaud Aero Contractors, which recently rolled out its Boeing B737-
500 after successfully conducting a C-check on the aircraft, positing that the facility could save Nigerian and West African airlines a lot in terms of capital flight.
For aviation industry stakeholders, the ability to conduct C-check on a major aircraft brand, Boeing B737 in Nigeria was a great milestone. It was something many of them thought would not happen soon. One of the major challenges fingered by the industry as retarding air transport growth in Nigeria is lack of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility.
But Aero Contractors without long ceremonies has charted a good course by putting together such maintenance facility, which would serve as a prelude to a major maintenance hangar in Nigeria. Many of the industry observers are also of the view that Aero could take up from there and become a major aircraft maintenance provider for West and Central Africa. In the past, it used to be a dream; today, it is a reality.
It is estimated that West African airlines spend about $1billion on aircraft maintenance annually. According to the former President of National Association Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Isaac Balami over 70 percent of the sum is paid by Nigerian airlines, so Nigerian carriers, which earn their revenues in Naira spend humongous amount of money on forex.
Also the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika said the facility would save airlines over $90 million annually in capital flight as C-check which hitherto was done outside the shores of Nigeria, would now be done locally.
He said Nigeria experiences huge capital flights of nothing less than $1.8million to $3million per Boeing aircraft on C-Checks overseas.
"It is noteworthy that Boeing 737 aircraft are the most aircraft fleet operated in Nigeria by most indigenous airlines, prior to now and in the lifespan of other administrations, Nigeria experienced huge capital flight of nothing less than $1.8million to $3million per Boeing aircraft that left our shores for C-Checks and there are more than 30 of such aircraft operating; so you do the arithmetic," he said in his address.
The Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi said that maintaining aircraft locally would save Nigerian airlines at least 35 percent of the cost of maintaining the aircraft overseas and Aero can obtain bank guarantee from airlines and conduct the checks for them, which means that they would not be under pressure to offset the cost of the aircraft maintenance immediately.
Extra Costs
Besides, the direct cost of the maintenance service, ferrying aircraft overseas attracts other costs. Senior official and engineer at the Aero Contractors, James Ominyi recently said that the cost of ancillary service could add about 15 percent or more to the total cost of aircraft maintenance overseas.

"You need to seek the over flight permit of the country. And then, depending on the distance, you have to pay for fuel. But I know it will not be less than $50, 000. You also will have to pay for landing and fueling, which is called technical stop, Ominyi said.
Sanusi explained that when an airline moves its aircraft to the Aero facility and in examining the panel, it is discovered that more extensive checks would be done in the aircraft, it would be easy for the airline to re-evaluate the maintenance scope. But if it is overseas, the airline would have to spend more money moving spares and incurring other expenses.
Ominyi explained: "When they open the engine and they open the side wall panels they may see cracks that are beyond what is agreed on, which they have to rectify and this will be at extra cost. I have seen a C-Check that had cost up to a million pounds in UK. That is possible because the moment they open up the aircraft, they will see so many things that ought to be done that was not tracked before."
Aero's Tenacity
Captain Sanusi, attributed Aero's feat to staff dedication, professionalism and hard work during the roll out ceremony a fortnight ago.
"Today's occasion proves that with good policies, smart management, effective oversight and professional dedication by staff, hard work gets rewarded and companies dedicated to public services can be revived from the brink of collapse", he said.
According to him, conducting aircraft C-Check in Nigeria is a huge milestone for the aviation sector, further adding that in Aero, there were several challenging moments.

"Thankfully, our team of engineers and technicians persisted and surmounted the challenges to make today possible. Permit me to mention here that this certification of Aero to conduct C-Checks in Nigeria seamlessly dovetails into the Ease of Doing Business Policy of the present administration. Aero hereby invites airlines to conduct their C-Checks for B737 Classics with us bearing in mind the tangible deliverables to be derived from patronising Aero.
"These include saving foreign exchange, getting a quicker aircraft turn-around time, enriching Nigerian technical expertise and knowledge base and strengthening the Nigerian aviation sector as the regional and sub-regional hub for aviation activities. Aero hereby extends its hand in partnership to all.

Sanusi also stressed on the collaboration between Aero and its technical partners, including South Africa Airways Technic and AJ Walters Group and other partners with whom the airline formed a strong and successful synergy in its Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul division.
"S.A.A Technique and AJW Group remain our technical partners whom we hold in the highest esteem for their commitment in adding immense technical value to our maintenance department. Both companies went far beyond the terms of the MoU we signed on this project and worked with our team like a family. This gathering today is highly resulting from their commitment to aiding Aero build up its technical capacity," Sanusi remarked.
Sanusi in his address also called on the federal government to assist Aero by interfacing with the Nigerian Customs Service to ensure that it expedites the easy passage and clearance of tools that are imported for imported for aircraft maintenance, said this would greatly help in avoiding loosing days waiting for Customs to clear our tools to enable us proceed with the maintenance.
Also, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Asset Management Corporation of Niger (AMCON), Mr. Ahmed Kuru at the ceremony called on aviation industry practitioners to patronise Aero Contractors' MRO facility.
Kuru, who was represented at the event by the Executive Director in charge of Operations at the Corporation, Mr. Aminu Ismail also called on other airline operators in the country to see the rare facility as credible alternative and a strategic way of stopping the huge capital flight that leaves the shores of Nigeria anytime Nigerians take their aircraft to other countries for C-checks.
"I would like to solicit the support for Aero MRO by all stakeholders, particularly the relevant aviation regulatory bodies, towards ensuring that this seed that has been planted is allowed to grow, in our collective interest as Nigeria and Nigerians.
"We cannot continue to allow capital flight of our scarce foreign exchange towards paying for services that are available in Nigeria and would provide a source of employment for our people. To this end a directive to other airlines towards the use of this facility at least to the extent of its capabilities and certifications, would go a long way towards ensuring the growth of the Aero MRO into being certified for other Aircrafts types," Kuru said.

Kuru maintained that it was important to underscore the fact that Aero Contractors' certification to conduct the C-checks for Boeing 737-500 series locally remains a boom for the industry because it would save millions of dollars that Nigerian Airlines and not just Aero, spend outside this country on facilities such as this.
"It is our belief that Aero's maintenance facility will achieve huge savings for operators even from other neighbouring African countries, thereby attracting the much needed funds that are required to strengthen our economy," Kuru said.
He stated that the success Aero has achieved with the facility could be replicated across other industries in Nigeria.
Kuru said he strongly believed that more could be done if the industry imbibed good corporate governance, hold management accountable, and have responsive regulators, adding that this was epitomised by Aero, which rolled out the first successful conduct of a Boeing 737-500 series C-check in the country, adding that this justified AMCON's resolve and commitment towards the development and stabilisation of the challenged aviation sector.

AMCON's Intervention
He recalled the controversies that have trailed AMCONs intervention in the aviation sector particularly for those who did not really understand AMCON's mandate as a resolution and stabilisation vehicle, and the good intentions of both the federal government and AMCON in the sector.

He said: "For us, aviation is not just a critical sector but also a strategic and core component of any economy or country that wants to compete on the global scale. If Nigeria must compete, our only option is to have a sustainable, vibrant and dependable aviation sector. Therefore intervening in Aero and indeed all other airlines in the country, was for us a national assignment, geared towards both our resolution objective and the need to help in rebuilding the Nigerian economy. As a recovery agency of the federal government, it was not for us an option to stand aloof and watch while airlines such as Aero, with its rich history and others are grounded as a result of challenges in management and governance, plus accumulated debt obligations."

Sanusi hopes that with this achievement made, Aero would grow the maintenance facility to become able to carry out maintenance not only on Boeing B737 classics but also on New Generation versions to C-check level. It has been conducting line maintenance for other aircraft types and before now it has been able to conduct C-check on Bombardier Q300 and helicopters.

The maintenance facility would give Aero a robust source of revenue and with it, the airline may rise to become the richest carrier in Nigeria. Already the airline is revamping its schedule flight operations and it stretches its hand to grab the old reputation and goodwill which endeared passengers to its hitherto enviable service.

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