New Telegraph

New Aircraft: Nigeria’s aviation faces historical changes, growth

Historical changes
The Nigerian aviation industry has continued to experience historic changes, growth, and development. Gone are the days when over 98 per cent of aircraft operating in the country’s sky were over 25 and 30 years old.

It was a period when a former Minister of Aviation described aircraft in service as ‘flying coffins,’ derogatory and damaging remarks about the age of aircraft, which he attributed to the frequent air accidents then.

Aside from Nigeria Airways, which operated relatively newer airplanes, many other airlines after the deregulation of the sector in the 1980s, operated geriatric airplanes like the DC-9, DC-10, B747-200, B727, B737 classics, and many others that flooded the market.

Interestingly, the deregulation and liberalisation of the sector also contributed to motivating new entry of firms into the sector. However, the effects of less regulation provided passengers with different choices in terms of price service options for different routes.

The country’s travel population managed it then because they were the ones available at the time. People put their hearts in their mouths any time they wanted to travel.
The horrendous regulation at that time before Dr. Harold Demuren came on board to clean the Augean stable coupled with ‘old’ airplanes put the entire aviation sector in a very precarious situation.

Cape Town Convention
The signing of the Cape Town Convention opened the floodgates of the acquisition of newer airplanes by airlines as carriers are at liberty to lease aircraft. The primary aim of the Convention and the Protocol was to resolve the problem of obtaining certain and opposable rights to high-value aviation assets, namely airframes, aircraft engines, and helicopters, which, by their nature, have no fixed location.

This problem arises primarily from the fact that legal systems have different approaches to securities, title retention agreements, and lease agreements, which creates uncertainty for lending institutions regarding the efficacy of their rights.

This hampers the provision of financing for such aviation assets and increases the borrowing cost. This promotes the granting of credit for the acquisition of more modern and thus more fuel-efficient aircraft. Airlines also are more aware of right-sizing their fleet.

There is nothing wrong with operating older aircraft. Economic factors have made operators look into cutting costs by shifting to more expensive but efficient aircraft types.
It is also not totally true that old aircraft are the cause or causes of air accidents, the frequent air accidents and incidents made even the die-hard believer that the age of an aircraft does not have any correlation with air crashes to have a rethink over the continuous operations of those airplanes.

Solution
In a frenzy to look for an urgent solution, a former Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Kemafor Chikwe, and her Ministry introduced an age limit for aircraft of more than 22 years.
This raised a lot of uproar in the sector by experts and analysts who felt the action was set to destroy investments such as BAC1-11, DC-9, B727, and B737-200, and their likes that were over 22 years old were automatically grounded.
The carriers made a shift towards relatively newer aircraft of 15 to 20 years to continue their operations. Many airlines that lacked the financial wherewithal fell by the wayside and naturally went into extinction. Newer airlines emerged but soon faded out as competition became fiercer.

Arik set the stage
Came Arik Air, which changed the narrative of new airplanes that its management chorused ‘Tear rubber’ euphemism for brand new aircraft. It was a marketing gimmick, a slang for new aircraft
Arik dominated the entire airspace with many brand-new wide-body and narrow-body aircraft. The airline was the first domestic operator to fly NEXTGEN B737-700 and B737-800, which it used for domestic, regional, and intercontinental routes.
The airline’s A330 gave it a comparative advantage over its competitors on some major routes. But the A340-500 was one of the biggest mistakes of the carrier and it is not surprising to see the aircraft abandoned and grounded in a bush at the Lagos airport.
The last few years have seen Nigerian carriers turn the corner with their massive aircraft orders, signposting a change in business model.

Air Peace makes mass order
Air Peace had in September 2023 made a firm order of five Embraer E175 aircraft, thus raising the airline’s total aircraft order to 33.
The airline had earlier made firm orders for 13 Embraer E195-E2, and 15 Boeing MAX and has now ordered five of the Embraer E175.
Out of the orders made, Air Peace has already received five Embraer E195-E2, while the rest of the E195-E2 will be delivered in early 2025.
Embraer noted that Air Peace was already an operator of Embraer’s newest and largest jet, the E195-E2, noting that these smaller aircraft will complement the airline’s existing fleet, allowing Air Peace to dynamically match capacity to demand, protecting yields and route viability.
Head of Africa and Middle East Region, Commercial Aviation, Stephan Hannemann, said: “Air Peace’s strategic and innovative approach continues to make them a powerhouse of aviation success in West Africa. Already an E2 operator, it now makes sense to upgrade their ERJ145 fleet, offering passengers more seats and comfort with the E175. The commonality of the cockpits between the E1 and E2 fleet also simplifies aircrew costs and management.”

Ibom Air follows suite
Just last week, Ibom Air, the Akwa Ibom State-owned airline, proudly announced the successful delivery of the first of 10 Airbus A220-300 aircraft ordered from the aircraft manufacturer Airbus at the 2021 Dubai Airshow.
In attendance at the modest handover ceremony held on Friday, November 24, 2023, at Airbus’s Mirabel facilities in Canada were the immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the CEO of Ibom Air, Mr. Mfon Udom, and the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Mr. George Uriesi.
On hand from Airbus to perform the handover were Benoît Schultz, President and CEO of Airbus Canada; Daniel Wenninger, Head of the A220 Programme Office; and Marc Arpin, Head of A220 Customer Line, Airbus Canada.

Overland Airways takes E175 delivery
Similarly, Overland Airways placed a firm order for three new Embraer E175 regional jets, plus rights for the purchase of another three. The deal is worth $299.4 million, at list prices, if all purchase rights are exercised.

Chief Executive Officer of Overland Airways, Capt. Edward Boyo, was confident that the airline had invested in the right equipment, as regional aviation is on an optimistic post-pandemic recovery.

Overland took delivery of the first of three new E175LRs, signaling a strategic shift from its predominantly turboprop fleet. The move is part of the airline’s expansion plans, aimed at increasing its domestic capacity and regional growth, according to Managing Boyo.

“We now have very flexible options to grow our fleet and capacity to meet all future demand,” he said in a statement. The newly built 88-seat aircraft, PR-ECJ (MSN 17000938), has yet to be added to the Nigerian register. Overland Airways, a 20-year-old West African carrier affiliated with the Landover Aviation Services Company, also holds options for three more of the type.

Expansion pressure
The Nigerian airlines’ intention to acquire a sizeable number of airplanes stems from their desire to expand their footprint on the domestic and international markets.
They have realised the potential to grow their operations and increase competitiveness now that the aviation industry has recovered from the effects of Covid-19.
Home to the world’s fastest-growing cities, Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria is poised to witness a substantial surge in aviation demand over the next two decades.

Airbus Global Forecast for Nigeria
According to the 2023 Airbus Global Market Forecast (GMF), airlines serving Nigeria will require approximately 160 passenger and freight aircraft by 2042. This includes 131 single-aisle aircraft like the A220 and A320 families, along with 28 wide-body aircraft such as the A330 and A350 families, all aimed at serving the burgeoning Nigerian market.

As Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria boasts a vibrant and expanding economy, making the aviation industry a key player in connecting the nation’s diverse regions and fueling economic progress.

As the aerospace industry in Nigeria and Africa at large continues to expand and diversify, there is a growing demand for specialized skills, opening up thousands of new opportunities for young people on the continent.
Already, the industry has created an estimated 7.7 million direct and indirect jobs in Africa. Airbus forecasts an additional demand for 17,000 technicians, 14,000 pilots, and 23,000 cabin crew positions across Africa over the next two decades.

Last line
The country’s major shift to brand-new aircraft will boost confidence amongst the travelling public, cut huge operating costs and make them be profitable in the long run.

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