Civil aviation authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have impounded a private jet operated by a Nigerian airline (name withheld) over serious safety defects.
The aircraft was impounded at the Dubai International Airport shortly after arriving the UAE from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Nigeria.
The chartered plane had flown some Nigerian minerals merchants to Dubai.
The UAE civil aviation authorities, which carried out a random ramp inspection on the plane shortly after arriving in Dubai, reportedly discovered serious safety infractions on it. The plane was subsequently grounded. Findings showed that the plane had remained grounded in Dubai for over three weeks now.
Top officials of the Ministry of Aviation confirmed the development on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the matter.
According to them, the UAE civil aviation authority has contacted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the United States Federal Aviation Authority on the development, the regulators of civil aviation of both countries.
The US government was contacted because the private jet was carrying an American registration even though it was operated by a Nigerian charter airline.
Top officials of the Ministry of Aviation said the NCAA leadership was disturbed by the development. Among other things, the UAE discovered that the tyres of the plane had worn out while the Minimum Equipment List, a major safety condition, was not on the plane.
Aside from other safety violations by the operators of the plane, the UAE authorities found out that the plane was conducting an illegal flight to Dubai as there were no documents to prove that the plane had approval for commercial (charter) flight.
It was learnt that the aircraft was meant for private purposes, contrary to the commercial (charter) it did to Dubai.
A top official of the Ministry of Aviation, who explained the matter to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said, “One of the airplanes under the Air Operator Certificate of one of the airlines flew to Dubai. And there were many issues on the plane. The Dubai authorities did what we call ramp inspection on that plane and it came out with a very serious safety report. The authorities there have escalated the matter to the civil aviation authorities of other countries, including that of the Gulf countries. Unfortunately, the plane was not supposed to do commercial flights aside from the serious safety infractions.”
The official further said, “The problem is that some charter airlines in Nigeria have many planes under their AOC and they are not monitoring them. Dubai is holding it because there are many open items on the plane. It is big trouble. One of the open items is that it was doing commercial flights; It is private category. Unfortunately, it was registered as commercial under the AOC of one of our airlines. This thing makes it to appear as if we don’t know what are doing in Nigeria.
“The plane has worn-out tyres, bad brakes and so on. It has no Minimum Equipment List (MEL). The biggest offence now is that it was flying commercial whereas it was registered under private category. That is the biggest violation. Even the United States FAA is involved. That is why it is a big investigation in the NCAA now. This thing happened about three weeks ago.”
Asked whether it would not affect Nigeria’s relationship with the US in the area of aviation, the official said it might.
The US had awarded its Category One status to Nigeria some 10 years ago. The highly coveted safety status permits Nigerian airlines to operate direct flights to the US.
There are concerns in the aviation circle that this development may cast Nigeria’s civil aviation authority in bad light before the US aviation authority.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the NCAA had suspended the operating licence of the affected Nigerian airline.
However, the Director-General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, did not comment on this or details of how the regulatory authority was handling the matter when our correspondent contacted him.
In a terse response to enquiries by Sunday PUNCH, he said, “The DG has constituted a high-powered committee to investigate the remote and immediate causes of this matter and make recommendations to prevent a recurrence. NCAA is in contact and cooperating with UAE CAA on this matter.”
A top official of the affected airline who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity said the carrier did not approve the Abuja-Dubai flight.
“The flight was conducted without our consent. Dubai asked him not to come,” the official claimed.
NCAA had in recent weeks clamped down on private jet owners carrying our chartered flights illegally.
The agency said private jet owners must register as commercial if they sought to do charter flights.
However, industry experts believed the regulatory authority was treating the matter with kid gloves, alleging that top NCAA officials were complicit in the case. – Punch.