First Nation Airways has reaffirmed plans to resume operating scheduled passenger flights during the last quarter of this year despite its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) operation specifications being curtailed to that of a charter carrier.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos earlier this week, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Director General Muhtar Usman said the regulator had instituted the measure until First Nation had increased its fleet size to at least two operational aircraft. The announcement comes after the airline was fined for committing safety violations.
“So, they are no longer into schedule service until they are able to meet the requirement for scheduled service,” he said highlighting that the measure was not punitive, but rather corrective.
However, in a follow-up statement, airline CEO Rasheed Yusuf said that contrary to recent reports, it was First Nation Airways that had elected to renew its AOC albeit only for chartered operations. As such, its certificate has not been downgraded.
“Our Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) fell due for renewal on July 31st, 2017, this is the third successful renewal that we have achieved working in good faith with regulatory authorities,” he said.
“The renewal process entailed subjecting our operations to rigorous and demanding audit processes covering all areas of our activity. Well before the AOC renewal, we voluntarily reduced our flight frequency to well within the capacity of our current fleet.
“The AOC was successfully renewed for charter operation and we have contracts for sales distributions. We thus remain committed to the highest level of safety standard in line with global industry best practices. First Nation is currently working on a fleet expansion program and we are confident that we will expand to schedule operation during the fourth quarter of 2017.”
First Nation Airways has been operating with just one aircraft for more than a year. Of the pair of A319-100s it leases from AerCap, only 5N-FNE (msn 660) is active, with 5N-FND (msn 647) languishing in maintenance since August 2016.
The carrier was recently hit with a safety violation when it was found that one of its pilots had allowed his medical certificate to lapse. It later lost an appeal, and must now pay a fine of NGN32 million (USD88,400).