There was atmosphere of jubilation in the nation’s aviation industry as Nigeria has once again passed the United States of America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Safety audit, resulting in the category one certification of the industry. This will be the third time the country is attaining this feat which was first attained in 2010, 2014 and the latest being this 2018.
According to Senator, Hadi Sirika, the minister of state for Aviation, the re-certification status would enable Nigerian registered carriers to continue to fly directly to the United States of America. The travelling public might not be aware but we in aviation are aware of the feat”.
Receiving the certificate, the minister thanked Captain Usman Mukhar, Director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for making Nigeria proud, emphasizing that the Category one status is very significant to the industry, as it has created more capacity for the nation’s aviation industry especially the fact that the feat was achieved using only in-house manpower at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) unlike other times when the services of consultants were employed at a fee.
Usman who presented the certification as a birthday gift to the minister said “in 2010, we attained category one status, in 2014, we sustained it. In 2018, we have been able to retain it.
A team of auditors from the US FAA had visited Nigeria for the audit of the safety status of the country’s civil aviation industry in November 2017. The audit was for the Category One (Cat 1) certification that enables direct flight connections between the US and Nigeria. The audit was based on eight critical elements that must be fulfilled before a country can scale the FAA audit. The eight critical elements are: legislation, regulations, organizations, technical staff, technical guidance tools, licensing, continuous surveillance and resolution of safety concerns. While in Nigeria, the FAA had carried out intensive internal aviation safety assessment of the sector and there were fears that Nigeria may not retain the status it earned in September 2010.
However, Nigeria retained the status after NCAA, and other aviation agencies closed all the identified “open items” when the FAA team which visited Nigeria in August, 2017 identified some lapses in some regulatory oversight function.
A US aviation staff had described this feat as an important milestone for Nigeria and U.S.-Nigeria bilateral relations.even as the U.S Mission, NCAA, and FAA have worked together as a team in the true spirit of bilateral partnership to achieve this goal.
With the IASA Category 1 rating, “Nigerian air carriers can now apply to operate to the United States with their own aircraft. An IASA Category 1 rating means a country has the laws and regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, and that its civil aviation authority equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters meets international standards for technical expertise, trained personnel, recordkeeping, and inspection procedures.”
So having scaled this hurdle, of what benefit is it to Nigerian registered airlines? asked an industry analyst. So far no Nigerian airline operates flight to the United States of America or has the capacity to operate such flight going by the state of the airlines which lack the financial capability as well as the equipment for such operation. The only airline that has been able to fly to the United States following the demise of Nigeria Airways was Arik Air. But since its takeover by AMCON the airline has not been able to operate any of its international flights.
So far the United States route is being operated only by Delta Air, a US airline, which flies from Lagos to Atlanta, while most Nigerian who travel to the United States have to route their journeys through other European or Asian airlines like the British Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, Emirates Airlines among others.
Though United States like London route is regarded as one of the country’s most lucrative routes, it’s unfortunate that Nigeria has not benefited from it since the liquidation of Nigeria Airways, even though the country is doing all it can to keep abreast of aviation matters as it pertains to airline operation. That is why some analysts have said the time has come for the Nigerian government to walk the talk with regards to the setting up of the national airlines which was actually one of the promises of President Buhari. Very soon, the government will be winding up as the 2019 election campaigns hots up, yet the industry and indeed the country have yet to witness the birth of the national airline as promised by the government. So while the industry is doing all it can to meet up with international standard practices in aviation, it is important for the government to do it all it can that such benefit the nation in every way possible.
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