Concern over acute shortage of airworthiness inspectors

  • … As 100 employees serve 34 airlines

With 10 scheduled domestic airlines, 24 non-scheduled carriers and around 40 potential airlines, Nigeria’s aviation industry faces a severe shortage of inspectors, Daily Trust reports.

While the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu has consistently decried the impact of the shortage on the agency to carry out its oversight and enforcement activities in the sector, the conclusions of our correspondent revealed that the situation has deteriorated. worse with the authority having between 80 and 100 inspectors serving both existing and future carriers.

The development, it was learned, was also responsible for the delay in issuing an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for some of the incoming airlines.

A senior NCAA source told Daily Trust that one example was the delay in issuing the AOC to Green Africa Airways, a new entrant in the airline subsector.

While the airline announced the start of flights in June this year and even sold tickets, the NCAA was only able to complete the AOC process in August, when the airline finally obtained the certificate that is the main requirement for any airline to start operations.

Daily Trust reports that the AOC process takes place in five stages and that at critical stages of certification, especially during demonstration flights, when the aspiring airline is required to complete a 50 hour test flight without passengers, the inspectors are needed.

But with the shortage, it then means that many aspiring airlines would have to wait longer than expected to complete the check-in process, as the same set of inspectors also serve existing airlines and when problems arise they are deployed to perform airworthiness checks on their aircraft from time to time in addition to routine checks.

Our correspondent reports that the NCAA has different categories of inspectors, including airworthiness inspectors, flight operations inspectors, ground operations inspectors, cabin inspectors, aerodrome inspectors dealing with airports, as well as airspace inspectors.

But there are only a hundred airworthiness inspectors who are the most critical services for existing and inbound airlines and over 200 combined aircraft to work with.

An NCAA source who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity said most of the 100 people had retired but had been retained on an ad hoc basis to help train the younger ones. .

The source said: “Yes, there are around 80 to 100 airworthiness inspectors currently that I know of. The GM is right about the shortage, but also remember that it is not unique to Nigeria. It’s a global thing. You’ve seen the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advertise inspectors. The situation in Nigeria is therefore not an isolated case.

“Ask the NCAA Director of Airworthiness Standards, he’ll tell you the inspectors under him are overworked and that’s the reality. But in other areas like air operations, it’s worse.

“The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) document will tell you, you need to have enough inspectors. But the number we have right now is not enough when you look at the volume of work in the NCAA. The industry is booming, more and more airlines are arriving, technology is changing and the way of doing things is changing. “

The NCAA CEO, who recently spoke to aviation reporters, confirmed that the agency faces a daunting challenge due to a lack of technical staff as the workload has grown dramatically. improved with the opening of more airports and roads.

He said most flight operations and airworthiness inspectors who are airplane pilots and engineers prefer to work for airlines where they receive much better salaries than those offered by the NCAA. However, Nuhu revealed that the NCAA is working with the Department of Aviation to review the terms of service for NCAA technical staff.

He said, “Now I can travel from Asaba to Kano. I can travel pretty much anywhere. I can go to Sokoto, I can go to Gombe, we have airports popping up everywhere, a lot of state governments are building airports.

“Thus, it has increased the scope of activities and responsibilities of the NCAA as an industry regulator. Our monitoring program has increased, it places a lot of strain on us and the workload has increased considerably. It will just get worse over time. The issue of technical staff is one of our biggest challenges.

“To attract the right staff, train them and retrain them, it’s a bit difficult. Like the flight operations inspectors, they are airline pilots. No one is going to quit their job with an airline and come and earn maybe 20 or 30 percent of your pay. At the end of the day, what happens is the retired pilots are doing the work for us. And I think we have to have a mix of young inspectors and retired inspectors. We need a mix of the two, but it is very difficult for us to really attract young people because we cannot compete with what the industry pays.

Speaking on the development, aviation analyst Captain John Ojikutu said the situation has been the same for years, making it difficult for the NCAA to be more effective in terms of enforcement. .

He said, “This is not new; this is just one of the main reasons why there is no efficient and effective enforcement of regulations and compliance with safety recommendations. I said this recently at the AIB event in Abuja and one of the NCAA staff picked me up but agreed that they were training graduates as inspectors at the Obasanjo library in Abeokuta.

“This approach with me was absurd. Why train inspectors at a public library outside of Zaria or with credible operators like Aero who has been certified for MRO by the NCAA. I once suggested that good hands of credible operators should be sent to the NCAA for a three to four year tour of duty in the NCAA to fill in the gaps instead of sending half-baked inspectors to jobs. professionals with 10 years of experience in the field.

“The AIB quickly realized that a few years ago, but not the NCAA which has more than 20 airports, more than 20 airlines and aircraft operators to audit, inspect and verify every year at a time monitoring and compliance with safety, security and economic regulations. . “

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