Westlink boss urges CAA to up their game in regulation and certification

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Captain Ibrahim mshelia, Chairman Westlink Aviation speaks on over regulation of industry, safety and others.

Captain Ibrahim Mshelia, Chairman Westlink Aviation

Do you think the aviation industry is over regulated, especially given what has transpired recently?

Aviation cannot be over regulated, aviation has a process, it is one of the most regulated industries in the world, but it is also the normal thing so any aviator would readily acknowledge it is the most regulated but to say over-regulated I don’t think this is correct. Yes there is overzealousness in some cases by individuals but the regulation is very clear and when it’s made it is proposed to us and when amendments are made we operators and our voices are taken into account and then the regulation comes out. Even though, the current regulation needs more of our voices of ours because when they were made some of them were made in a hurry to enable approvals of certain requirements because of audits coming up and things like that and there are some part of the regulation which ‘if you are lazy to check kindergarten and secondary school people and you just say you know what this race is for only those who have university and up so you just use blanket modus to sideline people. That is not over regulation, that is trying to make things convenient for you and when you do that; the long term effect is that you’d been seen as unpatriotic, let’s do the thing thoroughly and build this thing from the ground up, when you want to start from the middle up certainly there would be issues and there would be problems. So, aviation in itself needs to be regulated the way it is but whether there are lacunas here and there obviously there are.

I don’t know of anybody who likes the CAA. I’ve operated in the US, nobody likes the FAA, I’ve operated in Ghana and most of them don’t like the Ghana CAA, I’ve operated in Gabon, same thing, I’ve operated in Cameroon same thing, I’ve operated in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea same thing, Sierra Leone, Dakar, Senegal..I’ve operated around the world, CAA is CAA it’s just the way the world is.

Quite frankly, there is a Nigerian factor in everything we do so we don’t say that is the CAA even we the operators too, there are Nigerians factors in attitude but as far as safety is concerned we would never have made category if we are not doing things right, we are doing things right.

As for the last incident that occurred, the CAA certifies you by watching you demonstrate how safely you operate and believe it or not most of the books we wrote them and gave it to them to approve for us. It is a template that ICAO recommended so they make their regulations based on that. An operator is responsible for his day to day operations and safety and NCAA is just to make sure they do it right and if you don’t, they just come in there and stop you. We are actually supposed to be the ones regulating and maintaining for ourselves. NCAA needs to take a knock for that particularly those things that are meant to be comprehension issues. There is always a yardstick for before you become a pilot you have to be age 17, minimum. If you go to some schools they’d say you have to have English and Mathematics minimum, my school adopted the same and the reason is simply because flying is a science and when you know Mathematics and English you’d be able to comprehend the teachings of aviation and aerodynamics and co. so it makes it easier when you have that background. It’s like a foundation but it does not also necessarily mean that you cannot achieve the same result doing it differently.

Do you think there are lapses or complacency on the side of the CAA?

So what CAA has done in that case where they need to get a knock is because, they were complacent in certifying the key post holders you must have post holders that are qualified and if you have key post holder who is suppose to be at the helm directing affairs, he must comply with certain minimum standard just as ICAO says for the CAA man to inspect you and we hammer on that , we insist on that and the CAA tries to respond, that must make sure that who they send to inspect must have qualifications equivalent to those they are coming to inspect or above.

Now, it looks like there are lapses on their side and so they allowed lapses on the other side. To be an accountable manager or rather a key post holder, you have to be qualified even go through an interview, even that interview must be English, he has to understand the duty of an accountable manager is simplified but actually difficult because do you understand the workings and what you are expected to do with this your company? The answer is yes, they tick it, but do you really understand? There will be maintenance issues coming your way, because what has happened with the tyre issue, the engineer had no tyres and maybe somebody is afraid of asking somebody I don’t know, you cannot have tyres in your store and be flying tyres that you’re seeing thread till the thing will blow after takeoff and you still continue anyway and all those things that we read.

So, whose fault is it?

This I’ll fault NCAA for that, they should make sure accountable managers are accountable and then when they come for meetings they do not have to go outside to call somebody to answer them or tell them how to answer a particular question posed on them. These things happen, if you can get the owners to be business men and allow professionals handle the day to day affairs, I think that incident probably may never have happened.

Obviously, it would be between the owner and manager and that one is up to him, they can go into the room, box themselves, fight them and then they can cry and clean his eyes and come out insofar as they got what they want. I think that would solve most of these problems.