Nigeria needs US$3 billion in15 years to replace geriatric aircraft

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Nigeria would need over 50 airplanes in the next 15 years to replace fuel guzzling geriatric aircraft if they are to compete with their counterparts, which are migrating to fuels efficient and cost-effective airplanes.

These aircraft would cost the operators approximately $3 billion. Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, confirmed these development recently in Lagos.

Other African countries such as Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Ghana, Congo and South Africa could see their aircraft purchase or phasing out their older airplanes for more efficient ones, which be in the region of $70 billion within the same period.

New technology aircraft according to stakeholders will generate fewer maintenance events – in the short-to-medium term.

Sanusi however, stated that the acquisition depends on whether the aircraft that would be purchased by the carriers would be straight from the factory, which he claimed many of the operators do not have the finance to acquire.

He stated that definitely, operators who do not have the funds would acquire relatively newer and fuel efficient airplanes to replace many aircraft, adding that a brand new airplane costs between $45million and $50 million, bringing the total cost to $2.5 billion.

Within the period, many of the operators could migrate to smaller jets, as many of the operators are set to review their business model, which expert said has affected their operations and confined them to short lifespan.

Also, Aviation consultant and former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd), said the sector would require fleet renewal by airlines, adding that over $2.5billion would be needed for the venture.

This is coming as Airbus forecast that airlines in sub-Saharan Africa will require over 528 new passenger aircraft by 2030, with a value of $65 billion to cater for traffic growth and replace older aircraft.

On the other hand, Airbus’ stiffest competitor, Boeing predicts that Africa as a whole will require 800 new aircraft between 2011 and 2030 worth $100 billion.

Ojikutu, however, stated that it is too ambitious for Boeing or Airbus to be thinking that African countries would need $166 billion worth of aircraft.
His words, “A quick calculation of that is that brand new aircraft cost about $80 million and not $50 million. The continent’s airlines’ would need about 1, 250 of such airplanes, average of about 60 for each of the earlier 15 countries or about 20 for each member states of Africa Union. It is too ambitious for the aircraft manufacturers to contemplate.”

Nigerian operators are faced with finance challenges, which compel them to get geriatric planes from the graveyard in many countries of the world. The average age of planes in the fleet of many Nigerian airlines is between 19 and 22 years. Some are even over 25 years.

Although, the age of aircraft does not matter as long as airlines carry out periodic checks on their equipment. The only snag with aged airplanes is their frequent maintenance costs and they are considered as fuel guzzlers.

Nigeria’s flag carrier airline, Arik, was the pride of the country’s aviation industry when it showed commitment in doing things differently in the aviation sector by acquiring over 20 aircraft; some of the ‘tear rubber’ like the airline prided itself then.

The airline was the toast of travellers and the corporate world. Most of the aircraft it operate are classics, whose fuel consumption is very high. Fuel constitutes 30 per cent of cost to airlines.

Nigerian banks see huge risks in aviation, hence the reason many do not approach banks for money. Banks’ interest rates are also between 20 and 25 per cent.

Some operators may also be in serious dilemma, as aircraft lessors are now reluctant to lease airplanes to some Nigerian carriers who cannot buy brand new because of bad experiences they went through in the hands of some airline chiefs.
It would be recalled that two Nigerian carriers (names withheld) refused aircraft lessors to repossess their aircraft after defaulting in lease payment for the equipment, thereby violating the Cape Town Convention agreement, which Nigeria is a signatory to.
The two carriers have inexplicably gone to court to seek injunction stopping the aircraft owners from taking their airplanes.
This, stakeholders however, said, would have a damaging trust effect on the country’s aviation industry, which could lead aircraft lessors to go back to pre-2006 when Nigerian airline operators could not be trusted.

Many travellers were conscious of the type of aircraft they flew. Many also linked incessant plane crashes to the use of aged airplanes. Even when experts explained that the age of airplanes had nothing to do with air safety.

Arik’s new airplanes then can no longer be called new because airplanes of close to 15 years are no longer considered new.
The airline has not acquired new airplanes since its crisis over two years ago, which necessitated its take-over by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) due to N500 billion debts to banks.

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