The five-man panel set up to review the appeal filed by First Nation Airways contesting the  Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s (NCAA) sanctioning of the airline for violating safety rules has said that the airline erred in its operations.

Members appeal panel were drawn from two other airline operators, a private aviation lawyer and observers from the NCAA.

A statement by the general manager of public affairs at the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, said that the five-man panel upheld and reaffirmed the civil sanctions imposed on the airline and one of its pilots by the regulatory body.

Mr. Adurogboye said that this opinion was contained in the report submitted by the panel to the NCAA at the conclusion of the sitting.

It would be recalled that the NCAA had fined the airline and one of its pilots N32 million and N1.5 million respectively for violation of safety regulations in the industry in November 2016.

The NCAA had accused the pilot of being in possession of an expired certificate, which it insisted violated safety rules.

The regulatory authority had also accused the pilot-in-command (PIC) of one of the two of the aircraft in the fleet of the company, an Airbus A319 aircraft, of flying without a current medical certificate, which is a serious offense in the global civil aviation industry.

The troubled carrier then filed an appeal following a letter of sanction written to the airline on January 23, 2017, which prompted the establishment of the appeal committee.

Mr. Adurogboye explained that after the exercise, it was discovered that the pilot in question was not in possession of a current medical certificate.

In addition, he said that the airline similarly rostered the pilot to carry out operational flights when his medical certificate had expired.

“Therefore, the airline and the pilot violated Parts 8.4.1.5(a), 8.14.1.2(1), 8.14.9.4(a) (1) and 8.2.1.8(a) (24) of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) 2015,” Mr. Adurogboye explained.

“Consequently, in accordance with IS 1.3.3. (1)(14) of the Nig. CARs, 2015, the airline and pilot were fined N32 million naira and N1.5 million naira being a moderate civil penalty for the violation. The regulatory authority, in its responsiveness and quest to be just and fair to all, constituted an appeal committee to hear the airline’s appeal.

“The five-man appeal panel had three airline operators, a private legal luminary and NCAA officials as observers. FirstNation Airways was represented by four lawyers, the pilot and three management staff.”

Mr. Adurogboye said that after four days of sitting, submissions and deliberations, the panel upheld and reiterated the applicable sanctions meted out to the airline and its pilot, adding that it arrived at the conclusions that the ATRL 1874 License of the Pilot in Command of FirstNation Airways had expired on November 2, 2016. The panel also found that the pilot was not in possession of the license during the ramp inspection on November 8, 2016.

“The pilot-in-command (PIC) did not have a valid license and was not properly certified from the 2nd – 8th November, 2016. The PIC operated 15 flights and the airline rostered the PIC 16 times.

“The PIC operated with an expired license from the 2nd to 8th November, 2016, and there are indications that the airline knew the PIC did not have a valid license. This is a very serious safety issue. Therefore, the moderate sanctions applied by the NCAA were reasonable under the circumstances.

“The PIC’s argument that he had a valid license when he operated the flights is incorrect, as he had no valid Medical Certificate. The PIC had 14 days according to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs) to apply before the expiration of the license. However, he did not apply until the 3rd of November, 2016, after expiration,” the panel said in its report.

Mr. Adurogboye added that the pilot did not complete the Cardiac Risk Assessment (CRA) test mandatory for him due to his age of 62 years,  even after he was informed by NCAA the Authorized Aviation Medical Examiner (AAME).

The CRA report, he said, was dated November 7, 2016 and was sent to the NCAA on November 8, 2016.

He maintained that the accusation of delay and inefficiency by the authority was wrong and unfounded, insisting that the PIC and the airline did not follow standard procedures.

“The panel hereby dismisses all grounds of appeal and upholds the NCAA’s Letters of Sanctions in respect of FirstNation Airways and its pilot.

“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) will continue to provide a level playing field to all airline operators. However, failure to adhere to safety regulations shall attract applicable sanctions,” the panel ruled.

First Nation jet parked at MMA2

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