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MRO: Africa’s untapped potential



MRO: Africa’s untapped potential

The commercial aviation sector in Africa is yet to find its feet, but with over one billion people, a burgeoning economy, poor rail and road infrastructure, the indicators for growth are promising. WOLE SHADARE, who was at the just-concluded 27th MRO Africa in Cairo, Egypt writes

Africa’s voice


Publisher of one of world’s authoritative magazines, Nick Fadugba is perhaps one of Nigeria’s few exports to the aviation world.


His deep understanding of the workings of the aviation industry globally informed the need he had yet remained Africa’s voice in global aviation interface, the reason most airlines on the continent consult him for any aviation matters including buying outright of airplanes or wet-leasing aircraft for their operations.


Fadugba’s intervention on many occasions led to the release of several aircraft operated by African airlines impounded by lessors in Europe, America and other parts of the world due to inability to honour financial obligations.


Aircraft manufacturers, engine makers, lessors and MRO operators across the world fall over themselves to be part of his annual MRO conference, which he rotates from one African country to another.


He does this to promote the level of awareness among airline operators in Africa about current trends in global aviation.


At the just concluded 27th African Aviation and Exhibition MRO in Cairo, Egypt, he talked about the imperative of MRO for African carriers, adding that such facilities would help African carriers to grow and be profitable.


Captive MRO market


Only Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Royal Air Maroc, RwandAir and South African Airways own their MRO centres resulting in the majority of the carriers sending their aircraft outside the continent for maintenance.


Nigeria’s Aero Contractors is the latest to have a functional aircraft maintenance facility in Lagos with capability to offer services to airlines in West and Central Africa.


Managing Director, Aero Contractors, Capt Ado Sanusi, said the summit, MRO Africa is one of the real opportunity for any maintenance organisation to showcase itself, not only to gain customers but also to look for partnership with a well-established MROs to how other MROs are operating, to see the latest technology like Lufthansa Technique has just shown “us the utilisation of everything; six steps of the utilisation of the MRO business.


Those are the things you gain from the MRO.


The most important thing is that you expose yourself to the world”.


Networking for deals


“I have met with a lot of customers and also intending partners. Infact, I had discussions with some MROs that cannot accept works or clients that are close to me.


They said if I can accept them; we are in discussion on that. I am also in discussion with partnership with other MROs and other service providers. It is a very informative and beneficial meeting that we have held. Like I said, MROs that cannot accept clients are also asking us to take their clients”. On whether its foray into MRO was not a distraction, Sanusi said it is rather complementary rather than a distraction.


His words, “Why I said so is this. I have an airplane that needs maintenance and I have maintenance organisation. That was what I was saying at the conference.


Because I have built my infrastructure based on the maintenance organisation not based on number of aircraft, so, I would have a lot of staff that would be redundant if the airplane is only one or two.


But if I now put them to work for third parties, they would make money and they are kept in employment – meaning that my airplane would be serviced all the time. It is actually complimentary and not distraction. Since the liquidation of Nigeria Airways by the Federal Government in 2004, which had functional Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities that could occupy at least two Boeing 737 aircraft at a time, airlines in the country resorted to taking out their aircraft outside the country for required checks.


$1b capital annual flight


The repair of aircraft in Nigeria would save the country about $ 1billion annually. For Boeing 737-300 and 737-500, the C-check is conducted after 4,000 flight hours, while for Boeing 737-400 and Boeing 747-400 it is conducted after 4,500 and 6,400 flight hours respectively.


In the case of Airbus A-330-341 this check is done every 21 months. The most detailed inspection is the D-check; this inspection is generally an overhaul.


For Boeing 737-300, 737- 400 and 737-500, this inspection is conducted after 24,000 flight hours. Boeing 747-400 requires a D-check after 28,000 flight hours while for Airbus A-330-341, after six years. Further investigations revealed that for instance, to carry out a Ccheck on a B737-300 aircraft outside the country costs between $220,000 and $250,000, while the changing of a landing gear of the same aircraft brand costs around $80,000. D-checks costs much more.


Challenge to govt.


Nigerian aviation stakeholders have repeatedly challenged government to find a solution to the problem leading to capital flight as airlines have had to ferry their aircraft out and pay in dollars to those that have maintenance facilities.



In all, Nigeria can boast of having about 42 aircraft owned by airlines in the country, servicing domestic, regional and international routes. Unfortunately, a country like Nigeria with its pedigree as ‘Giant of Africa’ did not have an aircraft MRO facility until Aero took the bull by the horn.


Airlines have also used the excuse of maintaining their aircraft outside Nigeria not to pay federal agencies promptly what they are expected to remit after collecting same from passengers.


Expert’s view


Capt. Dele Ore, the former Director, Flight Operations, Nigeria Airways, and the immediate past president, Aviation Round Table (ART), lamented the government failure to actualise its plan to build the maintenance facility several years after the collapse of Nigeria Airways.


He said if the project was executed Nigeria would have saved the country’s airlines from expending huge revenue on aircraft maintenance overseas. He said half of the amount of money expended on carrying out checks abroad was used on ferrying the airplanes abroad, crew accommodation, allowances, over flier charges, landing and parking in the country of repair and other sundry charges.


Last line


While Africa’s current fleet of aircraft is relatively small, many are convinced of its growth potential.

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