The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), yesterday, said Azman Air was shutdown over serial safety infractions.
The apex regulatory body said the local carrier’s Boeing 737 series airplanes had three serious incidences over the spate of six weeks, which is a disturbing safety record and a dangerous signal.
NCAA said the airline’s Boeing 737 had to be grounded for safety reasons, contrary to Azman’s claims that the development was informed by personal vendetta from the NCAA Director-General, Capt. Musa Nuhu, over an unpaid N15million “bribe.”
The civil aviation authority recently ordered that all Boeing 737 airplanes in Azman Air operations be grounded for a safety audits of their operations. The airline informed customers that it would shut down its entire operations while the audit lasted.
Chairman of the airline, Abdulmunaf Yunus, also alleged that the grounding order was not informed by operational facts, but a vendetta.
Among others, he alleged that Nuhu, while at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and before becoming NCAA DG, had requested for N15million payment that Azman did not grant.
Apparently breaking the silence on the allegations, NCAA spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, yesterday explained series of safety breaches that informed the clampdown in accordance with NCAA safety regulations.
Adurogboye noted that during a routine ramp inspection on February 10 at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, NCAA inspectors found an Azman Air maintenance engineer carrying out replacement of the right-hand main landing gear wheel assembly (nos. 3 and 4) of their Boeing 737-500 aircraft, with registration 5N-SYS, without referring to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual.
This is a violation of the civil aviation regulations, for which both Azman Air and the engineer have been sanctioned, but were yet to pay the fine.
Similarly, on February 11, Azman Air flight AZM 2318 operated with the same Boeing 737-500 aircraft, with registration 5N-SYS, departed Kaduna for Lagos.
“During takeoff, a component of the aircraft was observed to have fallen off the aircraft and the Air Traffic Control (ATC) notified the captain, who elected to continue the flight to Lagos. Upon arrival in Lagos, the captain failed to make an entry in the aircraft technical logbook.
“Azman Air maintenance team on the ground in Lagos were notified of the detached part and carried out an inspection, which identified the missing part as the no 3 Main Landing Gear (MLG) heatshield.
“However, the maintenance team neither made an entry in the technical logbook nor rectified the defect, but released the aircraft for a scheduled passenger flight from Lagos to Abuja.
“NCAA inspectors in Abuja were notified and promptly grounded the aircraft until the defect was rectified. A Letter of Investigation was issued to Azman Air and investigations are ongoing.”
Exactly five days later, on February 16, when the previous incident was still under investigation, Adurogboye added, Azman flight AZM 2325, with the same Boeing 737-500 aircraft with registration 5N-SYS, suffered burst tyres while landing in Lagos, with resultant severe damage to the aircraft engine and fuselage.
“The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) is currently investigating this occurrence as a serious incident.
Debunking Yunus’ allegation against Nuhu, he explained that between November 20 and 22, 2017, Nigeria hosted the ICAO World Aviation Forum (IWAF/3) in Abuja.
The sponsorship of this event, he said, was sought from aviation organisations, including Azman Air, through a letter from the then Federal Ministry of Transportation (Aviation).
“Nuhu, who at that time was the Representative of Nigeria on the Council of ICAO and a key member of the organising committee of IWAF/3, delivered the letter of sponsorship to the management of Azman Air while he was on a family visit to Kano.
“Yunus promised to revert, but never did. The request for sponsorship of IWAF/3 can be independently verified with other Nigerian airlines.
“In addition, a publication, ICAO States Today, carried an Azman Air advert. The Airline subscribed to the advert in 2016, in preparation for the 39th General Assembly of ICAO, but to date, Azman Air has refused to pay the advert cost of $3,701, despite several reminders.
“The invoice from the publisher of the magazine, FCM Communications, based in Montreal, Canada, can be independently confirmed with the publisher.”
He said the official request for sponsorship of IWAF/3 and reminder of payment for the overdue invoice of $3,701 to FCM Communications was the basis for the false claims that Nuhu allegedly demanded the sum of N15million.
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