Aircraft defects may trigger rush for new brands


Fall out of the suspension of B737 classics over cracks in their frames in the United States (U.S.) and
Europe, and the plans by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to follow suit, the carriers
operating in Nigeria may be thrown into a fresh financial crisis when they take their Boeing 737
planes for checks due to fatigue-inducing cracks.

It is understood that inspection alone could cost between $350,000 and $700,000. If cracks are
found, that will involve higher expenses, by having to re-skin or retrofit the plane that is, changing
the upper/outer fuselage pane.

There are indications that the new defect in Boeing may trigger a rush for other aircraft types like
Embraer, Airbus A320 and others that are fuel-efficient.

First Nation Airways, a new entrant into the Nigerian aviation market, , has acquired nine A320,
while others that are about to get their Air Operator Certificate (AOC) are said to have made orders
for other aircraft brand, with the exception of Boeing classics.

Arik Air, Air Nigeria, Aero, Chanchangi and Skypower/Axiom Airlines have Boeing 737 series in their
fleet.

Preliminary investigations into the U.S. accident revealed that undetected cracks widened into a
five-foot hole in the roof of a Southwest Airlines flight, forcing the plane, a Boeing 737-300, to make
an emergency landing at a military base from 34,000 feet.

Consequently, Boeing issued a bulletin to airlines flying some older models of its 737 jet, and called
for special inspections of the lap joints in the fuselages of the planes.

Following the U.S. government’s directive, all operators of the Boeing 737 series planes in Nigeria
were recently summoned to a crucial meeting led by the Director-General, NCAA, Dr. Harold

Demuren.

The U.S. airworthiness directive applies to 737s, which had flown for 30,000 cycles. The good news
is the that none of the Boeing planes in the Nigerian airline’s fleet had reached 30,000 cycles except
one Boeing 737-300 belonging to a cargo airline and which was grounded.

Experts in the sector have expressed worry, stressing that operators of the aircraft type in Nigeria
would face huge expenses in the nearest future when the planes clocked the required 30,000 cycles.

Chanchangi currently has one, Arik has two of the aircraft type and Air Nigeria has eight. Aero-
contractors has five Boeing 737-500 planes and two Boeing 737-400 series; Skypower/Axiom Airlines
has one. In all, over 18 aircraft face this inspection and re-skinning in the nearest future.

Another challenge before the Nigerian carrier is that as soon as the planes clock 30,000 cycles, the
inspections will have to be repeated at every 500 cycles, which is at approximately four months
interval.

The Head, Research and Statistics, Zenith Travels, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, said airlines have no choice
than to bear the costs.

He said the development is common with ageing planes, adding that, “they should have been ready
for it long time ago.” The 737, sold in various models since 1960s, is the most popular and widely
used jetliner around the world.

Aircraft maintenance engineer, Sheri Kyari, said the costs of inspecting and re-skinning those planes
are going to be quite enormous, adding that “we don’t know if Boeing will shoulder part of the costs,
but everything that has to do with structures doesn’t come cheap

Author: nmmin

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