The all-new Gulfstream G500 business jet made its Nigerian debut this week, with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation’s senior executives visiting Nigeria to give current and potential customers an opportunity to experience first-hand the new aircraft’s cutting-edge technology, unparalleled comfort and superior craftsmanship.
The Gulfstream G500 business jet was on display for private viewing at the ExecuJet Terminal of the Murtala muhammed International Airport in Lagos on February 16 and 17. At a networking event attended by senior leaders from diverse sectors of the Nigerian economy, Commercial Counsellor Brent Omdahl, according to a statement, reaffirmed the strong economic ties between the United States and Nigeria.
“The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service continues to facilitate long term business relationships between companies from the United States and Nigeria. We are excited to welcome this stellar group from the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation to share their experience and expertise with Nigerian business executives,” Omdahl said. Private aviation is a growing industry in Nigeria, which is home to more than 20 Gulfstream business aircraft, most of them large-cabin, long-range jets capable of connecting companies and business owners with their corporate interests around the globe.
The Gulfstream G500, for example, can fly 8,149 km at nine-tenths the speed of sound, easily carrying passengers from Lagos to London or Moscow. At Mach 0.85, the aircraft can travel 9,630 km, linking Lagos with Caracas or Mumbai.
Is biofuel still alternative to Jet A1?
With skyrocketing cost of Jet A1, is biofuel still considered an alternative to aviation kerosene? WOLE SHADARE asks
Virgin Atlantic lead the way
February 26, 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the first demo flight on biofuel, which was executed by Virgin Atlantic.
Since that day, over 100,000 commercial flights have used low carbon fuels.
This is especially amazing since in 2006 when experts were told over and over that biofuel flight would never be possible commercially; with many saying, “we aren’t gonna fly anything other than kerosene”.
To date, the industry has focused on reducing greenhouse gases mainly by reducing overall fuel usage and increasing fuel efficiency through new plane technology and operational improvements.
Aviation fuel is central to the operations of an airline, as it constitutes between 35-40 per cent of an airline’s cost. The price of the commodity – laden with taxes – in the West African sub-region, is the highest in Africa.
Cost of Jet A1 in Nigeria
While the specialised fuel is sold for about $2.30 cents per gallon in Nigeria, $2.30 in Benin and $1.94 cents per gallon in Cameroon, it is sold for close to $3.14 cents in Ghana, which also produces oil. In Luanda, Angola (also an oil producing country), it costs $3.75 per gallon; Libreville $2.05 per gallon; Khartoum, Sudan $2.44 per gallon.
It is no longer news that aviation fuel, until recently, dealt a huge blow to the aviation industry in Nigeria. Aside the scarcity of the commodity, price of Jet A1 has also skyrocketed to an all-time high of between N220 and N260 per litre from N140 per litre that prevailed two yeara ago.
This situation is giving airline operators sleepless nights as Jet A1 gulps over 35 per cent of their revenue at a time fares have remained static or at best increased by less than five per cent, coupled low income of many Nigerians that have seriously affected the travel patterns of Nigerians.
Aviation fuel costs more in Nigeria and other oil producing countries than their counterparts that do not produce oil.
For instance, in Nigeria, despite the stability in the lifting of aviation fuel across the country and the deregulation of the commodity, JET A1 is considered very expensive.
Vice-President for Africa, International Air Transport Association (IATA), Raphael Kuuchi, said recently that on the average, they notice that fuel price is 21 per cent more expensive in Africa than the world average.
He lamented that in most of the oil producing countries; aviation fuel is mostly expensive, adding that it is baffling.
If airlines in the continent and particularly in Nigeria are groaning, isn’t it time for them to explore alternative to the reliance on Jet A1. Biofuel readily comes to mind as alternative source of energy for airlines, but how realistic is this for Nigerian carriers and the aviation industry in the country?
Nigeria is yet to develop the level where biofuel can be as alternative to the ethanol type of fuel considering that there are no research and preparation into that field of technology. If the airlines are to import biofuel, will it be cheaper than biofuels?
If the answer is in the contrary, it becomes nonsensical for the operators to rely on it. Would passengers be willing to travel by air if they find out that aircraft are being powered by fuel from plants or wood waste?
Making biofuels at large, commercial scale is difficult and dozens of companies have gone belly up trying. The logistics of securing a steady, cheap supply of whatever the fuel is to be made from can take years. Financing a plant is expensive because lenders know the risks and demand generous terms.
A sharp drop in the price of crude oil has made competing with traditional fuels on price more difficult. Aside the cost implications for carriers, airlines are seriously considering the option to reduce gas emission.
Aviation biofuel is a biofuel used for aircraft. It is considered by some to be the primary means by which the aviation industry can reduce its carbon footprint. After a multi-year technical review from aircraft makers, engine manufacturers and oil companies, biofuels were approved for commercial use in July 2011. Since then, some airlines have experimented with using of biofuels on commercial flights.
The focus of the industry has now turned to second generation sustainable biofuels (sustainable aviation fuels) that do not compete with food supplies nor are major consumers of prime agricultural land or fresh water.
Aviation biofuel is a biofuel used for aircraft. It is considered by some to be the primary means by which the aviation industry can reduce its carbon footprint. After a multi-year technical review from aircraft makers, engine manufacturers and oil companies, biofuels were approved for commercial use in July 2011. Since then, some airlines have experimented using biofuels on commercial flights.
African airlines take the plunge
How popular is this concept for African airlines? It’s no secret that commercial aviation is not all that great for the environment. And while some airlines are better than others in reducing their carbon footprint, advances in the industry have taken time. Hoping to do their part, South African Airways recently completed a flight using biofuels from nicotine-free, energy-rich “Solaris” tobacco plants cultivated by farmers in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, which borders Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The one-way flight, operated on July 15 from Johannesburg to Cape Town, carried 300 passengers and used 6,300 liters of biofuel. It is a turning point for Project Solaris, a partnership between biochemists Sunchem SA, jet-maker Boeing, fuel specialists SkyNRG and South African Airways.
“This is very significant as it proves we can use this biofuel,” Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist, said.
“It shows the industry is really changing. Four or five years ago biofuel was seen as futuristic, and today it’s here.”
The call for biofuels is resonating all over the globe, occasioned by the number of global fliers. It is expected to more than double in the next two decades. In order to carry all those extra passengers, airlines are turning to a technology a very few can make work on a large scale: converting trash into fuel.
Study:How to enhance aviation fuel quality
A pioneering local study on microbial contamination of aviation fuel and its handling system in the country has urged quality control agencies to intensify monitoring to enhance quality of supply to the industry.
The study carried out by a team of researchers from University of Ilorin, Kwara State, recommended among others, the incorporation of microbiological standards into the specification requirements of Jet A1/allied products.
Meanwhile, the research, courtesy of its findings, has commended the management of CITA Petroleum Nigeria Limited for compliance with the numerous industry and company’s Proprietary Policies, Standards and Procedure (PSP) covering the entire supply storage and distribution.
Having drawn samples from CITA tank farms at various locations, the study attested that microbial contamination has been contained within the International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines, which ensure that fuel is on-specification at point of delivery to aircraft.
The first of such study in Nigeria was aimed at assessing microbial contamination of aviation fuel and fuel handling system at CITA Petroleum Tank Farms located in Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja. The six points on the storage facilities selected for sampling included the bulk fuel, the oil-water surface, the bottom water, the inlet and discharge filters as well as sludge from the separation tanks and environmental surfaces.
Samples were collected on three different occasions between September 2014 and May 2015, representing rainy, harmattan and onset of rainy season, in other to evaluate the effect of seasonality on the detection and frequency of occurrence of the microbial contaminants.
Lead researcher and lecturer at the Department of Microbiology, University of Ilorin, Prof. Albert Olayemi, said though the work might not be enough to establish microbiological quality standards to classify Nigerian fuel (aviation) and fuel handing system, it is nonetheless a first approach to underscore the importance of microbial contamination in aviation fuel and safety.
He said based on the findings, it is recommended that the current practice of removing accumulated bottom water be sustained, coupled with periodic tank cleaning.
He said: “Since most of the microbes are located in the aqueous phase of the water – hydrocarbon interface, the main way to avoid growth and fuel spoilage is removing the accumulated water. Although it may be difficult to prevent microbial contamination because of the impossibility of maintaining sterile conditions in the farm tanks and during transportation, its negative effects can be diminished.”
Olayemi added that the combined monitoring and preventive action costs would normally be less than the costs associated with crises response strategy.
The indigenous study was sponsored by CITA’s $100,000 grant.
An official presentation of the research report was done last week to CITA CEO, Dr. Thomas Ogungbanbe and COO Engr. Olasimbo Betiku, at the CITA’s head office in Lagos preparatory to official unveiling of same at the second IATA Aviation Fuel Systems Management Symposium in Miami next month.
Low fares changing Nigerian airlines’ market dynamics
The low fare ticketing prices are not sustainable for airline operators despite huge population that are not taking to flying. WOLE SHADARE writes
The year 1990 was a landmark one for the airline industry. It was the year airline liberalisation was introduced in Nigeria.
Following the liberalisation, many airlines set up operation across the country and started to challenge the dominance of traditional full service carriers like Nigeria Airways. This translated to better service then and lowered fares for the consumers.
Airlines such as Okada Air, ADC, Bellview and later day Chanchangi flourished as they changed the narrative of flying. Competition became very keen as each one of them tried to undo the other with provision of quality services, on-time departure and low fares.
Service quality includes such things as leg room, meals and movies for those doing international operations, However, the initial success of deregulation was short lived and by the late 1990s, most of the newly formed airlines either went out of business as a result of faulty business model and unfavourable government policies over the years that have done incalculable damage to their business and see them go extinct.
At lower fares, load factors would be higher, though, if demand were sufficiently efficient elastic, the disadvantage of high load factors would be at least partially offset by greater flight frequency.
Aero pioneers unstainable low fares
It would be recalled that Aero Contractors pioneered the very low N6, 000 book online fares that revolutionised the entire aviation industry. The airline had no capacity to handle the surge that came with it and had to quickly suspend their action. The fares as at that time was so low to buy fuel, which is the most important of airline business.
The airline offered promotional fare of N6, 000 for flights on all domestic routes to celebrate from 2009 to 2010.
The Nigerian fares are considerably lower than those charged in other African countries for flights that cover about the same number of miles.
Despite recent dip in the value of the naira (which stands at N360 to $1dollar) as well as the rise in cost of aviation fuel from N240 per litre to N260 per litre, air fare on economy class goes for between N21, 000 and N29, 000 depending on the time of ticket purchase.
A leading airline official said it doesn’t add up in situations where airlines in a bid to woo passengers will have to charge airfares in naira that are as low as N16, 000 to N20, 000 on routes where you fly for almost 45-50minites.
“That’s already like running at a loss. In the United States, no airline does a 50 -60minutes flight and be charging $60 (about N25,000) which is what the airlines are doing right now in Nigeria,” he added.
The Nigerian operators because of their ego, would rather go into extinction than for them to merge. They seem not to be bothered about seeking for better alternatives to flying one hour flights with low fare tickets at high operational cost to Abuja, Kano, Port-Harcourt, Kaduna from Lagos for less than $80 at low capacity.
Whereas, same distances or less on traditional carriers from New York to Washington DC, New York to Philadelphia, London to Manchester attract fares of between $200 and $300 depending on the time of travel.
Amid the huge situation the carriers found themselves, they contemplated raising fares last year when they faced a very dire situation.
They mulled the idea of a 100 per cent hike in air fares as one possible survival strategy for the industry.
“There is no way the price of fuel and forex will be going up at the rate we are currently witnessing in the country and we don’t increase air fares to match these realities and people expect that we can survive and be accountable to shareholders as businesses,” another airline chief told New Telegraph.
Fearing a public backlash should they come out openly to announce increases in air fares, most airlines have opted to such subtle measures as raising fares on competitive routes (like the Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja) or those routes that they enjoy a sort of monopoly, while lowering fares on those with fewer number of passengers.
“We do aircraft maintenances in dollars, buy spares in dollars, pay for insurance in dollars, and even buy fuel in dollars. What the CBN supplies is still not sufficient for us. Most of us still get dollars at the parallel market. And by the time we are converting earnings in naira into the dollars, it becomes very obvious in simple economics that the current fares have to go up by more than 60 per cent if airlines must continue to fly and be profitable,” said an airline’s spokesman.
“To be honest, the cheapest or most realistic fare Nigerians should be paying on any route within the country should be N40, 000,” he added.
Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd) said, “Let us be honest, the Nigerian domestic airlines cannot be selling passenger flight tickets at N25, 000 to Abuja if the dollar is selling at N360 to $1, the same price it was selling two years ago when dollar was at N200 to $1.”
“The present cost of aviation fuel, the high operational cost cannot justify the air fare of N25, 000 for an hour flight anywhere in Nigeria. The high operational cost also cannot be sustained except the airlines short change service providers and the supporting agencies or there are inflows of cheap monies coming from sources to sustain their operations”.
Domestic airlines would be worst hit because of current ticket prices are not in sync or responsive to current realities and this is due to unhealthy price wars and pursuit of market dominance at the domestic side of airline business.
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