Many Aircraft Operate Illegally in Nigeria
The saga concerning Rivers State government’s Bombardier BD700-1A11 (Global Express) with registration number N565RS has indicated that many aircraft operating in Nigeria have questionable entry permit documentation.
For years many private aircraft owners, mostly highly placed, who register their aircraft overseas, have flouted the rules by operating independent of airlines with Air Operator Certificate (AOC).
According to regulation, every aircraft must operate under a company that has AOC to ensure that the aircraft is subjected to safety conditions for its air worthiness and to ensure that it is properly maintained.
So it is part of the regulation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and also the 2006 Civil Aviation Act in Nigeria that aircraft operate under airlines that are recognised and licenced by the regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Also for security reasons aircraft are not allowed to operate into the country without proper entry documentation; otherwise aircraft with dangerous goods could fly in and out of Nigeria.
A seasoned operator who has both foreign registered and locally registered aircraft under his management said that there are lots of other aircraft that fly in the country illegally.
“If this incident did not happen the Rivers State government can be flying that aircraft for the next five years and nobody will know. Who are you to stop a governor to question him about the clearance document of his aircraft? That is what other highly placed persons are doing,” he said.
He explained why it was compulsory for aircraft to operate under airlines that have AOC and said the major reason was accountability: that the aircraft and its pilots are held accountable for their actions through the airline which they use its core sign.
“If you commit any crime NCAA will punish you through the airline that is managing the aircraft and that airline will make sure that it does not flout any of the regulations and any aircraft under its management abides by regulation.”
Also the airline ensures that the aircraft is effectively maintained by ensuring that it goes for checks whenever it is due and ensures that it abides by all the safety regulations.
“The airline knows that his licence is at stake so he will make sure that the aircraft is safe before it is allowed to fly and NCAA deals with the airline on anything concerning the aircraft. So he is held accountable and he in turn ensures that the aircraft meets all conditions to enable it to fly, including having proper documentation, paying all the charges and being well maintained.
So having illegally operated aircraft is a security threat to the country and also diminishes the safety status of Nigeria in the eye of the international aviation organisations, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), ICAO, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and others.
The operator also noted that there are regulations that guarantee the safe operation of aircraft in the country but government’s “highhandedness” flouts these regulations.
“The system is good but they don’t allow it to work well,” he said.
An insider in the aviation industry told THISDAY that in the last four years the management of NCAA has developed “too much respect” for the VIPs and allowed them room to flout the rules and also protect them when they flout these rules.
“A man met me two weeks ago and said that he wanted to put his newly acquired aircraft under my management. I said okay that I will let him know the conditions. Later he called me and said that he was not going to put it again because he learnt that he could operate it without subjecting it to an airline. Who knows, that aircraft may still be flying in Nigeria’s airspace now,” the operator also said