Akwa Ibom Government seems to be doing something right especially with regards aviation development and the key things that have driven this sub-national are continuity and the impetus to keep going against all odds.
The state’s investment in this capital-intensive sector started in 2006 with the commencement of its first airport, the Victor Attah International Airport in which was completed 2009; then came the commencement of its Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and now the construction of Nigeria’s first and only smart terminal.
From all indication Akwa Ibom is deliberately creating an ecosystem that if nurtured, will become an actual study case for the country on how to strategically invest with intention in aviation for the long haul and it seems to be doing that with it new smart terminal soon to come online, is airline clocking four this year and its drive to ensure its MRO, the last piece of the puzzle becomes operational .
Sometime in 2012, the state government commenced its MRO facility with lofty plans to complete it soon enough to end the scourge of capital flight that has bedevilled the airline industry in Nigeria. It took some doing, however, despite stalls, setbacks as well as the usual lack of support, today the facility is complete awaiting awaiting tooling, certification and usage.
What makes the Ibom MRO still critical after 11 years of fine-tuning is that unlike other regions in the continent, West and Central Africa does not have a standard MRO they go to to get works done and many people feel this could be it, as most times even the major maintenance hubs have too much work and airlines have to line up for checks to be worked on.
Once operational, the Ibom MRO which is a massive facility will join the other three major facilities of its like in Johannesburg, Ethiopia and Cairo to offer qualitative services to airlines both in Nigeria and beyond and equally aid the nation in combating capital flight.
Properly managed, it would serve as a focal point that would connect MROs in the country and not only aid in enlarging the nation’s capacity to maintain but also provide growth in terms of manpower development.
According to Chief Operating Officer, COO Ibom Air, Mr. George Uriesi, the Ibom MRO as it stands can be likened to any major MRO anywhere in the world
“The MRO facility that you find everywhere in the advanced world, it is one of four in Africa. The MRO in Johannesburg, South Africa ; the MRO in Ethiopia Airlines in Addis Ababa, the facility of Egypt Air in Cairo and this one in Uyo which has obviously become an MRO for Ibom Air
“It ( the MRO facility) is massive, it can take two seven-forty-seven eight-hundred( 747-800) side by side with their doors closed at climate controlled and standing side by side. In the same vein, our aircraft, the Airbus A220, the MRO can take eight of them as well as 10 of our other aircraft, the CRJ-900 all at once.
“So the facility is really, really large and it’s what other major airlines’ have. It depends on the aircraft you are maintaining.
“For instance, we are doing line maintenance for on our A220 fleet, we can have eight of them, that is huge capacity and it goes for aircraft type in the range of A320 and Boeing 737 series, so it can take all of those.”
Given that it costs nothing less than US$1.8million to US$3million for a C-Check on a Boeing aircraft in 2019, an MRO then was said to have capability of saving the country at least $90 million. Currently, with the weakening of the Naira against the dollar using same maintenance cost and multiply by at least 104 aircraft ( Airbus, ATRs, Boeing, CRJs, Embraer ) in the country, this facility may save airlines roughly over US$100 million for major maintenance like C-Checks,
This will also change the Aircraft on Ground ( AOG), capital flight and job creation narrative as it is, especially as a detailed C-check maintenance where the entire component of an aircraft is inspected for the purpose of repair and maintenance takes huge foreign exchange and can take up to three weeks to conduct, requiring up to 6,000 man-hours.
According to Uriesi an MRO of this size and capacity for the nation is a game changer for the aviation industry and particularly for Ibom Air. READ ALSO: Fadugba charges airlines to pool resources to make Ibom MRO work
Uriesi said,” The MRO facility is very important, not just for Ibom Air or Akwa Ibom State but for Nigeria. It is the only major facility in West and Central Africa but more than that it presents the opportunity for us to pivot into a different era for Aviation because all the facility and parts from wheel to aircraft brakes and tyres and all the different avionics, shocks, all the things that have not existed in Nigeria at this scale before are provided for.
“So, we have the opportunity to provide MRO- services to all airlines’ in West and central Africa. We intend to create a centre of excellence that will enable us to provide the services that our airlines have to fly across the world to go and get.
” They either go to Johannesburg or Ethiopia and worse still they go to Europe and pay a lot of Euros to maintain their aircraft. With this facility we are going to provide commercial maintenance for other airlines right here in Uyo.
Assessment and Business Direction:
For the Ibom MRO to commence third party or commercial maintenance, the hangar has to go through certification under the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA) and to start that process, the hangar has to study the market, create a niche and know exactly what it wants as that would determine the kind of certification it would require.
According to the Ibom Air Development Company that would be running the facility, Airbus Consulting was invited to evaluate the MRO and provide a business plan that would drive the facility.
Uriesi aaid, “We are partnering with Airbus Consulting. We have contacted them to assess the facility, which by the way they are very impressed with, to help us develop a business plan for optimal use of the facility.
“So what we plan to do is to maintain our A220 and CRJ 900 and Airbus Consulting will also advise us on which fleet best we can business out of so we can set up . When we have the business plan, it allows us to know what we invest in in capacity, of which Maintenance and which aircraft and to target the right airlines to go after and offer our services.”
As it stands, the MRO is roaring to go, once the right partnerships are in place and all the certification done. This will indeed usher in a new era for the industry and the nation at large with this sub-national taking deliberate steps to change the existing narrative.