As the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) begins a re-assessment of the Nigerian aviation sector, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has announced the downgrading of First Nation Airways (FNA) from a scheduled airline to a charter operator because of insufficient operating aircraft.
The director general of NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman who disclosed this in Lagos said the airline, which has been running scheduled services with only one aircraft for almost 12 months, would maintain that status until it improves its fleet to at least two aircraft.
Even at that, he said the carrier would have to meet the requirements for a scheduled operator when it has the mandatory aircraft capacity to revert.
“Yes, they use one aircraft and they were on scheduled services. But the present status now is that the certificate of the airworthiness of the status has been changed to non-scheduled service, which is charter service. So, they are no longer into scheduled service until they are able to meet the requirement for scheduled service.
On the N33.5 million fine imposed on the airline for violating safety procedure, Usman said the agency would work with the carrier to ensure it (the carrier) pays the penalty.
“I will still reconfirm to you that whatever sanction we impose on any operator is in line with civil aviation regulations and it is not punitive, but corrective.
“FNA was sanctioned; they appealed and lost the appeal. So, we are still working with them to pay the sanction. We don’t want to cripple any operator. If it is safety related, we will not waste time, but the payment is being worked out now,” he said.
The director general reiterated that the essence of sanctioning any operator or organisation “is not punitive, but to serve as a corrective measure to prevent a recurrence.
On the visit of the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) team for a reassessment of Nigeria’s Category 1 status, Usman expressed optimism that the country would scale all the hurdles.
The director general said Nigeria would retain the Category One status it attained in 2010 adding that the FAA team would focus its audit on personnel licensing, international operations and airworthiness.
He said the team would be in the country for five days and would make their observations known through a report that would be sent to NCAA later.
“NCAA has done a lot in the areas that we are expected to cover and not only for this audit, but also in our statutory responsibilities including safety, aviation security and regulations. We have the new civil aviation bill, which is on its way to the National Assembly.
“The bill is to enhance the current Act of 2006 and it is supposed to be in line with the new annexes of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Convention. We also amended our regulation, which is 2015 Civil Aviation Regulation.
“Re-organisation has also been going on to make sure the agency continues to discharge its responsibilities as it should and in line with the ICAO. We want to continue to attract and retain qualified personnel in the industry in sufficient numbers to make sure we carry out safety as required by ICAO.
“In the area of enforcement and compliance, we have done a lot. We make sure that our regulations, which are mainly safety, are enforced. Our sanctions are not supposed to be punitive, but corrective. We have been sanctioning where we need to sanction in order to correct and instill safety in the system,” he added.
A four-member FAA team which arrived in Nigeria on Sunday, August 20, 2017 is led by Louis Alvarez and is expected to carry out the audit from August 21-25, 2017.
The other members are operations specialist, L. P. Vanstory, airworthiness specialist, Benjamin Garrido, and an attorney, Jeffrey Klang.