The estimated $1 billion annually spent on the maintenance of aircraft outside the country by indigenous airlines may drop following the completion and use of Ibom Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities, Mr. George Uriesi, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Ibom Air has said.
This is as the Federal Government has been called upon to domesticate aircraft maintenance and training in a bid to reduce the pressure on foreign exchange.
Speaking with Nairametrics in an interview, Uriesi said that the Ibom MRO could occupy two Boeing 747 aircraft side by side, while the facility could contain about eight aircraft at a go.
He regretted that most Nigerian airlines carry out maintenance of their fleet in other African countries like Ethiopia, South Africa, Europe and America, thereby further depleting the value of the naira.
Statistics released recently by the Aviation Round Table (ART), indicated that there are about 104 aircraft among 11 scheduled Nigerian operators.
The brands comprise Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, ATR, Q400 and others.
The 104 aircraft are however apart from the private jets, which are Bombardier, NetJets, Gulf Stream, Cessna and Dassault Falcon, which are equally about 100 nationwide.
The Director- General Civil Aviation (DGCA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, also a few weeks ago, said that the aircraft fleet registry of the aviation apex body had increased from 175 in 2015 to 358 aircraft.
Uriesi explained that the Ibom MRO is the largest in West and Central Africa and remains the fourth largest on the continent.
He said: “This is a major facility that you can find anywhere in the advanced world; one of only four in Africa, which are the MRO of South Africa Airways in Johannesburg, Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa, Egypt Air facility in Cairo and this one in Uyo.
“We can take two Boeing 747s each, standing side by side with the door closed and climate control. Also, our aircraft type Airbus A320 is really large and it is what very big airlines have.
“Depending on what aircraft you are maintaining, you can have eight of them at once under maintenance. That is a huge capacity and that goes for all aircraft in the range of A320 and Boeing 737 series. We can take all of those.
“The MRO facility is very important not just for Ibom Air or Akwa Ibom, it is the only facility that you have in West and Central Africa.
“But, more than that, it presents the opportunity for us to a different era in the industry because all the facilities from wheels, aircraft brakes, tyres, and all the different avionic shops are ours.
“We have the opportunity to provide this MRO to all the airlines in the entire Africa.
“We intend to create a centre of excellence with this facility that will allow us to provide the services that our airlines have to fly across the world to carry out.
“They either go to Ethiopia or worse still, they go to Europe and pay a lot of euros to maintain their aeroplanes. With this facility, we are now able to provide commercial maintenance for other airlines right here in Uyo.”
He explained that the successive governors in Akwa Ibom State had helped to ensure continuous growth in the aviation industry through investments.
According to him, the governors had invested in Ibom Air, the airport and MRO, describing it as a game-changer in Nigeria’s aviation industry.
“All of these come together to form a tripod; Airport, MRO and airline. What that means is that we are creating a world-class airport ecosystem in Uyo for the benefit of Akwa Ibom and the country at large.
“Of course, it offers Akwa Ibomites so many options for their future. They can be pilots, engineers, cabin crew, sales agents, marshallers, managers and more.
“What we are trying to do is to create an ecosystem that works in a world-class manner to help the rest of us in the country to see what aviation can do,” he said.
Meanwhile, the President, of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria (AOPAN), Dr. Alex Nwuba, said that it was necessary for Nigerian airline operators to stop the culture of foreign aircraft maintenance.
He explained that it was necessary for the government to domesticate aircraft maintenance or training of personnel development.
Through this, he said the search for foreign exchange among Nigerian operators would reduce.
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