Barely 24 hours after the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) announced that it downgraded FirstNation Airways’ Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A) due to its inability to operate a minimum of three aircraft, the airline insisted that its C of A is still intact.
The spokesman of the airline, Rasheed Yusuf, stated that FirstNation has changed its status from a scheduled airline to a charter airline, as the airline does not have enough aircraft to operate as a scheduled carrier.
According to Mr. Yusuf, however, the airline’s airworthiness status was never downgraded by the regulatory body.
He added that the airline would return to scheduled services by the fourth quarter of 2017, saying it is currently pursuing a fleet expansion programme.
In July, SaharaReporters revealed that FirstNation reduced its fleet to just one aircraft in violation of the NCAA’s regulations for scheduled operations.
According to NCAA regulations drafted in 2015 and enforced in 2016, an airline must have a minimum of three aircraft in its fleet in order to operate as a scheduled airline.
One of FirstNation’s two Airbus a319 aircraft has been parked at the apron of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2) since November 2016, reducing its fleet to just one aircraft.
On Monday, the Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Muhtar Usman, confirmed that the airline downgraded its operations from a scheduled operator to non-scheduled.
“Yes, they use one aircraft and they were on scheduled services, but the present status now is that the certificate of the airworthiness of the status has been changed to non-scheduled service, which is charter service. So, they are no longer into scheduled service until they are able to meet the requirement for scheduled service.”
Mr. Yusuf confirmed on Tuesday that the troubled carrier recently renewed its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for charter services.
He explained that its AOC was due for renewal on July 31, 2017, which entailed subjecting its operations to rigorous and demanding audit processes covering all areas of the airlines’ activities, noting that before the renewal, it voluntarily reduced operations.
“Well before the AOC renewal, we voluntarily reduced our flight frequency to well within the capacity of our current fleet. The AOC was successfully renewed for charter operations and we have contracts for sales distributions. We thus remain committed to the highest level of safety standards in line with global industry best practices. FirstNation is currently working on a fleet expansion program and we are confident that we will expand to scheduled operations during the fourth quarter of 2017.
“We are working with the NCAA with respect to the outcome of our recent appeal. It is imperative that this is the very first infraction that has been alleged against us. We thus remain bullish about the outlook of this airline.”