Hard times hit jet owners, planes converted to commercial use

NCAA fines airline N9.5m for airspace violation

Wealthy Nigerians, who hitherto bestrode the nation’s airspace in their state-of-the-art multimillion-dollar private jets, have now converted them to hire and reward.

Hire and reward entails putting small aircraft to commercial operation. That is done with the permission of the aviation regulatory body.

However, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has set out to monitor owners who engage in such practice without notifying the agency, as there are strict rules of engagement  for such operations.

No fewer than 41 private jets have been de-registered with the aircraft either being sold off or returned to their owners abroad.

An airline chief, who preferred anonymity, in a chat with New Telegraph, estimated that 150 business aircraft existed in Nigeria and were owned by the government, corporate organisations and individuals.

He added that the NCAA used to process monthly over 200 business and private flight clearances, but the number has drastically reduced. A pastor of a mega church has since converted his private jet into commercial use.

So also is one of the state governments that has a private jet. Spokesman for the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, confirmed that many of the owners now put their aircraft under the custody of an existing firm, which has an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) to enable them to successfully carry out the charter or commercial service operations.

While some of the private jet owners put such aircraft under the license of existing airlines that have AOC, some others do discreet charter business with their aircraft.

The regulatory body is on the trail of such people because “they short change the agency in taxes and other sundry charges.”

Speaking at a two-day Nigerian Business Aviation Conference held last weekend, Chief Executive Officer, Evergreen Apple Nigeria (EAN), Segun Demuren, attributed the latest situation to recession that has made the owners to give up their planes for charter operations to make money for themselves and for maintenance which cost so much.

Demuren stated that the boom in the oil and gas sector led to a rapid growth of aviation business with many Nigerians acquiring jets to travel in leisure and in class, adding that the business took a plunge due to economic situation that made owners to convert to commercial venture.

As at February 2017, the number of privately owned jets in Nigeria has shrunk by almost 60 per cent, according to the records with NCAA. Demuren, however, said he was optimistic that, that special sector of the aviation would bounce back as Nigeria begins recovery out of recession.

He stated that the harsh economic situation has led to an increased number of foreign registered private jets/corporate jets in Nigeria.

He also lamented the situation whereby any aircraft put on a 5N (Nigerian) registry loses asset value by as much as 25 per cent, yet incurs higher insurance premiums, up to 35 per cent higher in some cases. He said: “Maintenance and service support still remains a challenge and whilst the fleet continues to grow, there are no accurate figures for the amount of jets operating in Nigeria. Educated guesses say between 100 and 150.”

The reason for an increased number of foreign registered private/ corporate jets in Nigeria has been traced to lower insurance policy cover, convenience to secure services of crew members as well as a ploy to conceal real ownership.

Nigeria, in the last decade, has seen an upsurge in the presence of luxury aircraft at its airports across the country being used by influential Nigerians. Chairman, ANAP Business Jet Limited, Atedo Peterside, said aviation business has a terrible reputation in West Africa, lamenting that private jets are still seen in the region as expensive toys for playboy millionaires, wasteful Heads of States/ senior government officials or politicians and others who acquired their wealth through questionable means. Peterside maintained that private jets are indeed indispensable and efficient tools for big businesses in West Africa where efficient travel between neighbouring capital cities can still be a nightmare because of the serious challenges faced by commercial airlines.

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