First National Airways has lost an appeal seeking to quash a N33.5m fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for violation of aviation safety.
This is contained in a report submitted by the five-man panel set up by NCAA to look into the petition filed by the airline.
It would be recalled that violations were detected during a ramp inspection on the FNA’s aircraft, Airbus A319 marked 5N-FNE, on November 8, 2016 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
During the exercise, it was discovered that the pilot-in-command (PIC) was not in possession of a current medical certificate.
Besides, the airline had put the pilot down for operational flights when obviously his medical certificate had expired.
Following the discovery, NCAA fined the carrier N32, 000,000 while the pilot-in-command was fined N1, 500,000 making a total of N33.5 million
But the airline lodged an appealed on January 3, 2017 saying it was not given a fair hearing and that NCAA acted in bad faith.
However, after four days of sitting, submissions and deliberations, the panel set aside all grounds of FNA’s appeal and upheld the agency’s sanctions against it (FNA).
The panel noted that the Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) 1874 of the carrier’s PIC had expired on the November 2, 2016.
It also said the PIC was not in possession of the licence during the ramp inspection on November 8, 2016 adding that the PIC did not have a valid license and was not properly certified from 2nd – 8th November, 2016.
Furthermore, the panel stated that the PIC operated 15 flights and the airline put the PIC down 16 times.
Besides, it said the PIC operated with expired licence from 2nd to 8th November, 2016 and that there are indications that the airline knew the PIC did not have a valid license.
“This is a very serious safety issue therefore the moderate sanctions applied by the NCAA were reasonable under the circumstances.
“The PIC’s argument that he had a valid license when he operated the flights is incorrect, as he had no valid medical certificate.
“The PIC had 14 days according to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs) to apply before the expiration of the license. However, he did not apply until 3rd November, 2016, after expiration.
“The invoice was issued by NCAA on the November 3,2016.The Pilot did not do the Cardiac Risk Assessment (CRA) test mandatory for his 62 years age even after he was informed by NCAA the Authorised Aviation Medical Examiner (AAME). He did the medical assessment eventually.
“The CRA report was dated November 7, 2016 and was sent to NCAA on November 8, 2016.Therefore, the accusation of delay and inefficiency by the Authority is wrong and unfounded. The PIC and the airline did not follow laid down procedure. NCAA received the medical report same day, reviewed it and issued the Medical Certificate same day on the November 8, 2016,” said the panel.
The five-man appeal panel had three airline operators, a private legal practitioner and NCAA officials as observers while FNA was represented by four Lawyers, the pilot and three management staff.