United Nigeria to Build MRO in Enugu - THISDAY
BY Chinedu Eze
New Nigerian Carrier, the United Nigeria Airlines has completed plan to build Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Enugu.
The aim is to slash the cost of maintenance by about 40 per cent. This was disclosed by the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Obiora Okonkwo, when he led the management team of the airline to an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, on Wednesday.
When completed the facility would serve airlines in West and Central Africa and would save a projected $500 million for Nigerian airlines, which is the cost of ferrying aircraft overseas, payment for allowances for flight crew and rented space for aircraft, as maintenance schedule could delay aircraft due for checks for months.
Okonkwo said plans were already at an advanced stage, saying the airline was also in touch with some technical partners on the project, initially estimated to be completed in 24 months. He said what is holding the project from taking off is the finalisation of the allocation of land by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to the company.
While waiting to have its own maintenance facility, he said United Nigeria could conduct A and B checks on its own because it has a formidable and well-experienced in-house maintenance team. “On our maintenance, we have our own maintenance system, we have quite experienced engineers and all the necessary tools to maintain our aircraft from One-A to Three-A in-house, that is our starting point. But in a very short time, we have started a process of acquiring land space from FAAN to set up our MRO; we thought we should have gone far in that at our operational base in Enugu and we felt it is more appropriate to locate our MRO in our base.
“FAAN is currently having some issues with space identification and clearing with all the interested parties involved. We are still in touch with them and hoping that very soon, they will be able to allocate to us the necessary place we need to be able to start our own plan.
“But on a takeoff plan, we gave ourselves 24 months to be able to do our full C-check in our own facility and also offer that service to other stakeholders in the industry, with that we are already two months behind the schedule but we hope that very soon, FAAN will clear that road for us and we will be able to embark on that project. That is our medium and long-term maintenance plan. So, we think that when that is done, we will be able saving ourselves some foreign exchange and other operators in the sector. We are in touch with some technical partners and that is at advanced stage”, he said. He said the airline was planning to expand its operations in the long-run and would take delivery of more aircraft to serve more routes.
“We are going to increase our fleet, we have four aircraft already, we are negotiating and finalising with the next two Embraer, by then, we would have consolidated on certain routes, we would have consolidated on certain passenger loads and we have plan thereafter to probably consider a larger body aircraft. Granted ERJ-145 might have its advantages but it has its disadvantages in terms of luggage because a typical Nigerian will want to travel with a lot of things, so the challenges are there, we will want to do something that will accommodate that shortly, but so far, we are coming around those challenges and dealing with it,” he said.
He gave kudos to the NCAA, saying so far the agency is happy with what the airline is doing with its internal maintenance. “Like the COO has said, we are very strict and thorough in terms of observing our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and also the rules and regulations as applied”, he added. The major problem Nigerian airlines have is having major MRO in Nigeria. Currently most aircraft are maintained overseas because Aero Contractors facility maintains Boeing 737 Classic and the facility is beset with many aircraft from Nigeria, Ghana, Congo that it is busy throughout the year.