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Flight finance: Nigerian Airlines invest billions in aircraft maintenance

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byCharles Ayodele

Article Summary

  • Expenditure: Nigerian airlines and private aircraft owners spend around $1 billion annually on aircraft maintenance.
  • Dependency on Foreign MROs: A significant portion of maintenance costs is incurred in MRO facilities located outside Nigeria.
  • Need for Domestic MROs: There is a call to encourage the establishment of capable and efficient MROs within Nigeria to reduce costs and promote local expertise.

Research has reveal that every year, Nigerian airlines and private aircraft owners spend at least $1 billion on the maintenance of their aircraft fleets every year.

Air Peace on the other hand says that in the past year, it has expanded about N60 billion on the maintenance of its over 30 aircraft fleet outside the country.

While speaking today as one of the panelists at the fourth day of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria’s (FAAN) National Aviation Conference (FNAC), holding in Abuja, themed: ‘Sustainability of The Aviation Industry In Nigeria,’ the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 7Star Hangar, Engr. David Balami, stated that scheduled, non-scheduled operators, Nigeria Air Force and private jet owners, spend about $1 billion annually to maintain their fleets.

However, he regretted that most of this huge sum amount of money is being spent in different maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities outside the country.

Recent increase in aircraft fleet

Earlier in the week, the Director- General Civil Aviation (DGCA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, disclosed that aircraft fleet in its registry has increased from 175 in 2015 to 358 aircraft.

This number is said to be inclusive of commercial, non-scheduled and private jets, which are registered in Nigeria, but the statistics, however, excluded Nigeria Air fleet, which includes the presidential fleet.#

What you should know

In category, there are four types of checks carried out on aircraft regularly, and these check range from A, B, C and D, but the C-check involves total stripping of the aircraft.

To carry out a D-check on a typical B737 aircraft, which is the most popular brand among Nigerian operators, it costs about $1.8 million. The C-check is carried out every 18 months.

The part Nigerian government is expected to play

According to Balami, Nigerian engineers are capable of carrying out maintenance on any aircraft type in the country from C-A to D, but he went ahead and lamented bitterly that that they are not encouraged by the government.

He explained that rather instead of the indigenous operators and aircraft owners to take their fleets outside the country for maintenance purposes, such could be carried out in the country.

According to him, his 7Star Hangar is on the verge of receiving the license from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to carry out C-check on aircraft, adding that with the enabling environment and encouragement from the government, Nigerian engineers could perform better than their foreign counterparts and sought for more financial supports from the government for expansion purpose.

Besides, the CEO of Air Peace Airlines, Mr. Allen Onyema, stated that the carrier spent about N60 billion in 2022 to maintain its fleet of aircraft.

He added that most of these maintenances were carried out in MROs outside the country, especially in Europe, Asia, Middle East and America.

He said:

  • “At Air Peace alone in 2022, we spent about N60 billion to maintain our fleet of aircraft. This is a capital flight that could have remained in Nigeria if we had capable and efficient MROs. The Nigerian Government needs to encourage private investor in this area of business in the industry. A huge capital flight is going out of this country through this means.

He added that airline operators pay at least 26 per cent as interests rates on loans obtained, while their counterparts in Europe and America, only pay back at single digit interest rates of 2 per cent.

With this, Onyema argued that there was no way the indigenous airlines could compete with their counterparts, warning that it could also lead to their deaths.

In his words, he said:

  • “Nigerian operators borrow money in our banks at double digits interest rates of 26 per cent while the foreign airlines that we are competing with get their own at just 2 per cent. Also, equipment leasing company is another major chall we are facing in this industry. We need to pity, not just the airlines in this industry, but everybody in this industry.
  • “The premiums Nigeria airlines pay to insure one Boeing 737 aircraft, is enough to cater for three of the same equipment in any of the legacy airlines. We still have a long way to go in this industry.”

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