New Telegraph

Investigation: How Mattini Airline Operated Illegal Flights

T here are strong indications that the Challenger CL 601 aircraft belonging to Mattini Airlines, which veered off the runway immediately after landing at the Ladoke Akintola Airport, Ibadan, Oyo State may have operated illegally. A private jet operated by the airline, which had departed Abuja with 15 persons on board, overshot the runway, while landing at Ibadan Airport on Friday. The busy schedule of the aircraft with registration N580KR as sources said, could be passed for a private jet owner turning his airplane into commercial venture by charging some fees for the aircraft without letting the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) know exactly the kind of operations he was engaging in. Under the regulation of the NCAA, it is a violation if private aircraft that are not registered for commercial use but clandestinely charge its premium passengers for the services it renders.

That makes such an operation il- legal. Most of the time, the private jet owners most of whom are highly connected to the government outsmart the NCAA by using their connections to clandestinely convert their planes to commercial without the knowledge of the regulator, thereby posing huge safe- ty risks to their clients. Investigation by Sunday Telegraph into the flight his- tory of the aircraft with registration N580KR showed that the aircraft was seen on Friday, January 13, 2024, at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 12.03 pm and 12.19 pm at Ibadan same day. On January 15, the American registered aircraft was seen at 01.52 pm at Ibadan, 02:10 pm in Lagos; 03:53 pm in Lagos, 07:12pm at Ibadan; 07:30 pm in Lagos; 08:37pm in Ibadan again. The same aircraft was on January 18, 2024, seen at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano at 04:55 pm; 05:05 at Zaria, Kano; 07:34 pm in Ibadan; 07:53 in Lagos. On January 19, 2024, the aircraft was seen in Lagos at 07:39am and 07:54am in Ibadan.

On January 23, 2024, the light aircraft was seen in Abuja at 02:51 pm. The airplane also operated on January 24, 2024, and was seen at 09:08 am; and 09:27 am in Lagos and got involved in the incident in Ibadan after it departed Abuja at 11: 11 am on January 26th, 2024, further fuelling insinuations that the aircraft was indeed engaging in illegal charter operations, otherwise known as hire and reward but hiding under the cover of private jet ownership. Mattini Airline Services Limited holds a valid Permit for Non-Commercial flights (PNCF). The license forbids owners of such airplanes to engage in commercial airline operations. Some do not meet the safety, operational, and regulatory standards that are necessary to be a reliable provider.

The NCAA is looking to confiscate the licenses of some private jet owners, who use their aircraft for hire and reward. Recall that a private jet belonging to Flint Aero con- veying the Minister of Power, Chief Bayo Adelabu from Abuja to Ibadan also crashed into a bush at the same airport in November 2023. The airline according to the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) was issued with a Permit for Non- Commercial Flight (PNCF). The PNCF issued to Flint Aero Services Limited stipulates that the aircraft shall not be used for the carriage of passenger(s), cargo, or mail for hire or reward. The Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Chris Najomo, while announcing the suspension of the ‘Mattini Airline’ late yesterday, said the grounding of the aircraft and its operations would continue until clarifications were made that the conditions of the Permit for Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF) had been adhered to.

While the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) is conducting the safety investigation, the NCAA has initiated an economic inquiry into the operation of the air- craft viz-a-viz the terms and conditions of the PNCF as detailed in its Annexure. A top official of the NCAA, who spoke to Sunday Tele- graph on condition of anonymity, said: “Many of these private jet owners apply for Permit for Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF) license which they are granted. Most of them violate the conditions of their license by secretly converting their aircraft into charter operations for affluent Nigerians. They pose danger to themselves and their clients because of lax maintenance of the said aircraft”.

“Aside from that, the country is losing about N20 billion annually in non-remittance of taxes to the operation of these illegal operators because not only do they evade taxes that they are supposed to remit to the government if they are properly registered as charter operators, they have encroached dangerously into the market of registered charter airline operators. They are also serious safety and security risks to the country, “he said. Experts, who spoke to our correspondent, alleged that the movement of the airplane purely indicated that the aircraft registered under private operation was engaging in hire and reward service, urging the NCAA to wield the big stick to sanitise a sector they said was in urgent need of rescue.

Describing the culprits as ‘Cartel’, Najomo said their activities have seriously affected the fortunes of the genuine and licensed charter operators, vowing that the aviation regulatory body had concluded plans to publish the names of the operators of the illegal business and to warn Nigerian elite not to fly aircraft that are not duly registered with the NCAA.

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