Home Aircraft Maintenance Ibom MRO: Relief for Nigerian carriers

Ibom MRO: Relief for Nigerian carriers

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A tripod is a three-legged stand, a stand for stability and when there is stability, there is growth, development and increase in every social, economic and political activities.

This can be said of the successive governments’ well thought out plan, design and focus of Akwa Ibom State in building an airport, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility as well as establishing an airline called Ibom Air.

This tripod – an airline, airport and MRO – has no doubt changed the aviation ecosystem in Nigeria.

The state is the first in West and Central Africa to have this all-three-in-one sort after globally.

The building of a world class MRO facility in Uyo is a breath of fresh air for Nigerian airlines as funds spent on maintaining their aircraft overseas would be saved for other investments.

The Ibom MRO is one of the only four in Africa – the others being owned by South African Airways in Johannesburg, Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa, and Egypt Air in Cairo.

The relief for Nigerian airlines with the coming of Akwa Ibom MRO is humungous looking at the huge amount spent every year by operators to ferry their aircraft outside the country to Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa, Middle East or Europe.

Investigation revealed that every year, Nigerian airlines and private aircraft owners spend more than $1 billion on the maintenance of their aircraft overseas.

To carry out a D-Check on a Boeing B737 aircraft widely used by Nigerian operators cost about $1.8 million. And this is done every 18 months.

Facts from stakeholders

“Scheduled, non-scheduled operators, Nigeria Air Force and private jet owners, spend about $1 billion annually to maintain their fleets,” the former CEO, 7 Star Global Hangar, Engr. Isaac Balami said.

The chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema also confirmed the high cost of maintenance when he said: ”’At Air Peace alone in 2022, we spent about N60 billion to maintain our fleet of aircraft. This is a capital flight that could have remained in Nigeria if we had capable and efficient MROs. The Nigerian Government needs to encourage private investor in this area of business in the industry. A huge capital flight is going out of this country through this means.”

The head, aircraft maintenance organisation at Aero Contractors, Mr James Ominyi also agreed: “Cost of aircraft offshore maintenance is and has al­ways been exorbitant. It rang­es from $500,000 to $2 million operating on the required level of maintenance. If you imagine about 50 aircraft in a year for whatever level and at an average of $500,000 to $1 million for an aircraft, you might be looking at a total average of $25 million to $50 million.”

All these are a testimony that the industry is in dire need of an MRO in Nigeria which the Akwa Ibom State government has provided on silver platter.

The chief operating officer of Ibom Air, Mr. George Uriesi said the maintenance facility can take two Boeing 747-800 standing side by side with the doors closed and climate control.

“In the same vein, the MRO can take eight of our aircraft type -Airbus A220 – at once and our other aircraft types. It can also take 10 CRJ 900 at once. So, the facility is really very large.

“Depending on the aircraft you are maintaining, for instance if you are just doing line-maintenance our fleet of A220’s, you can have eight of them at once under maintenance and that’s huge capacity and that goes for other aircraft types in the range of Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737 series; it can take all of those,” he said.

Uriesi noted that the facility is not just important for Ibom Air, Akwa Ibom or for Nigeria.

“It is the only facility of its type in the whole of West and Central Africa and more than that, presents an opportunity to pivot into a different era in the industry in Nigeria.

The Ibom MRO facility is replete with wheels, aircraft brakes, tyres and all the different avionics shops, many of which have not existed in Nigeria at this scale before.

“We have the opportunity to provide all these maintenance, repair, overhaul services to all the airlines in West and Central Africa.

“We intend to create a centre of excellence in this facility that would allow us to provide the services that our airlines would have to fly across the world to go and get. They go to Ethiopia or Johannesburg or worse still they go to Europe and pay a hell of Euros to be able to maintain their aero planes,” he added.

With the Ibom MRO, he said the facility can start providing commercial maintenance for other airlines.

Furthermore, Uriesi said the government had partnered with Airbus Consulting to advise them on many ways to succeed in the quest to providing world class service to customers.

“We are partnering with Airbus Consulting; we have contacted them to partner with us, to come and assess the facility which by the way, they are very impressed with to help us develop a business plan for optimal use.

”So what we want to do is to be able to maintain our fleet which is the A220 and CRJ900 and also to advice us on which fleet we can get the most business so we can set up. When we have that business plan, it allows us to know what to invest in terms of the capabilities of maintenance of which aircraft and to target the right airlines to go after to offer our services to them”.

The vision of the Akwa Ibom government has become a reality and no longer a dream, not just for the benefit of the state but Nigeria as a whole.

“We have to give it to Akwa Ibom succession of progressive governance. So you have an airport built by the state government, a world class MRO built by the state government, a world class terminal, the best terminal in the country and in my view because I know about basically all the infrastructure in the region, the best in West and Central Africa, properly built and properly designed,” Uriesi said.

Benefits

Emphasising the benefits of the tripod, Uriesi said: “All of these come together to form a serious tripod, MRO, airport, airline. What it means is that we are creating a world class aviation ecosystem in Uyo for the benefit of Akwa Ibom and for the country.

“Of course, it offers particularly Akwa Ibomites so many options for their future: the young people, they can be pilots, they can be engineers, they can be cabin crew, and they can be airline customer service agents, managers. It doesn’t also preclude the rest of Nigeria and the world because the skills are found everywhere.

“What we are trying to do is to create an ecosystem that works in a world class manner, that will help the rest of us in the country to see what aviation can do when you are not bothered about me and what am I going to get out of it but you are given something for legacy reasons to be able to show that it can be done. It didn’t just fall from heaven; it came from a long term vision, long term discipline, focus and that is what we are trying to do.”

Last line

“We are trying to prove that it is possible to do this and so huge kudos to the government and people of Akwa Ibom state, huge kudos to people of the Ibom Air Development Company Limited and Ibom Air and we believe that the efforts we are putting in, the focus we are putting in, the discipline we bring to the table will deliver on these investments by the government and people of Akwa Ibom to the benefit of Akwa Ibom state,” the chief operating officer said.

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