Illegal charter operations pose a serious safety hazard to the traveling public as well as the aviation sector. Illegal charters can take a variety of forms including companies that don’t have the required certificates; use aircraft that are not on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) authorized aircraft list; use unqualified pilots; offer ride-sharing; try to transfer operational control of the flight to the customer; operate under one rule when they are required to operate under a different rule; and when the customer and the company act in conformity to sign a lease that doesn’t include crew members, but the company then directs the customer to use a specific flight crew.
NCAA is saddled with the task of giving license to operators to carry out any form of airline services like the scheduled commercial flights, charter services, and helicopter services, among others
However, there have been a several instances of breach of regulations by some aircraft owners in the country who carry out charter operations without NCAA’s authorization. In order to be qualified for the business, operators who wish to carry out charter services are also expected to get Air Transport Licence (ATL) and Airline Operating Permit (AOP).
According to the NCAA Regulations (Nig.CARs) 2015 Part 126.96.36.199., ‘No person shall use any aircraft in Nigeria for hire and reward in public transport category to provide non scheduled or charter air service unless such a person holds an ATL or Airline Operating Permit (AOP) issued by the Authority’.
The activities of these unauthorized charter operation will pose a dangerous threat to the aviation sector and also tamper with the activities of aircraft owners who have gone through the normal procedure and obtained their certificates.
In curbing this menace, NCAA should provide information and resources to help passengers ensure the aircraft they hire is legitimate. Similarly, pilots and operators should be sensitized to ensure that they understand all of the rules that apply to charter operations.
A current list of licensed operators and the numbers of the aircraft they operate should be made available to the members of the public. Customers also can protect themselves by asking to see the aircraft’s operating certificate (Air Transport Licence and Airline Operating Permit).
Depending on the capacity of aircraft, charter operators charge an average of $6,000 per hour. Many people travelling in group may prefer to charter aircraft for ease of movement, more so that the scheduled flights may not be available in their destination.
However, proper research should be conducted by passengers about the operators they are considering hiring, and to report any suspected illegal activities to the agency. This will go a long way in reducing the illegal activities by some operators.
NCAA has also warned that any member of the public transacting business with any unauthorized operators would be doing so at a high risk as such operations may not have valid insurance cover.