Sunday, 9 March 2014
Looming Flight Safety Crisis In Nigeria Occasioned By NCAA’s Non Compliance With ICAO Standard And Recommended Practices (SARPS)
May we start by bringing to the attention of Mr. President, the response of the Director General of NCAA to the resolutions of the National Assembly on the Dana Air Crash of 3rd June, 2012 and allied matters which was published as an advertorial in the Guardian Newspapers of 31/01/2013 (hereby attached as appendix 1). Because of misinformation by the DG in the advertorial, particularly as it pertains to airworthiness inspection, NAAPE made a rejoinder to the DG’s response in an advertorial in the Punch Newspapers of 08/02/2013 (hereby attached as appendix 2). NAAPE’s rejoinder has since attracted various comments and even rejoinders. Of particular note is the “response to Part 1 of NAAPE’s Rejoinders’ by so called Nigeria Society of Engineers, Aero Division, NCAA of which Mr. President is a copy reader (and is also attached as appendix 3).
Because of our promise to make a follow up to our earlier rejoinder, and because of the many other fabrications that have come from a number of groups who are beneficiaries of Dr. Demuren’s largesse and rule bending, and because of NAAPE’s corporate responsibility to Nigeria and Nigerians, and above all, because of NAAPE’s commitment to flight safety, we are compelled to further explain the issues and to solicit Mr. President’s urgent intervention to stave off an otherwise imminent crisis in aviation.
Mr. President, may we, by way of introduction, inform you that NAAPE is the umbrella union for all licensed Pilots, flight Engineers and aircraft maintenance Engineers in Nigeria. Our members are engaged in not only ICAO standardized flight operations and aircraft maintenance but also provide day to day executive management services to all airlines in Nigeria. As such we are in good position to be knowledgeable on the subject matter.
On the above basis, may we bring the following issues to your Excellency’s attention:
1. What is this issue Really About?
Much as the Aero Division of Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) would like us to believe, this is not a supremacy fight between graduate Engineers and Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (LAME’s). It is also not a comparison of the two qualifications. It is about who is qualified to perform a particular task. It is about Safety of flights. Nothing more. Our point is that NCAA should comply with ICAO stipulations with respect to airworthiness inspection as domesticated in Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (NCAR) and as spelt out in NCAA Policy and Procedures Manual in the Technical Guidance Materials.
2 Who is An Airworthiness Inspector?
Airworthiness Inspector is the personnel through whom the NCAA carries out its obligation of regular Safety Oversight of airworthiness in the country. The Airworthiness Inspector ensures that operators and maintenance organizations perform the maintenance of their aircraft to approved standards, among other things. The NCAA’s Aviation Safety Inspector Guide in its Airworthiness Standards states clearly that, “In order for Nigeria to maintain a satisfactory level of airworthiness in line with the legislation requirements and protect public interest it will depend on the competence of the Airworthiness Inspectors”. This is why, Mr. President, NAAPE is harping so much on the competence of the Safety Inspectors, as the safety of flights is practically in their hands. This is because it is safe to assume that on their own, operators and maintenance organizations are likely to cut corners in order to save costs and maximize profit.
3 Who Is a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer?
A Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME or AME) is a person prequalified through rigorous and robust training programme to be able to competently carry out repair and maintenance checks on types of aircraft.
Such training Programme includes 3½ years academic (school) education at Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria followed by 2 yrs of logging experience with an airline or maintenance organization, or both. Such person will have to pass very difficult initial examination at NCAT, Basic License examination at NCAT, and finally a grueling written and oral examination by NCAA where the candidate must convince a high level panel of experts that he/she merits the issuance of the License (referenced part 2: Personnel Licensing NCAR, 2009). This procedure remains the same for all, regardless of the individual’s prior academic qualification.
It is important we stress that the Aircraft Maintenance Engineers License is more than able to stand alongside any degree in engineering. That is why universities, including those of United States and Europe accept the License as entry requirement for maters degrees. May we inform you sir, that an AME covers a total of 3,480 hrs of study (excluding about 2 yrs of logging experience and manufacturer’s course on aircraft type. You may wish to compare this with any degree programme in the world. Note also that unlike regular degree programmes with pass mark of 40%, the AME programme has pass mark of 75%, below which is a failure. Bear in mind also, sir that NCAT was set up by ICAO itself in 1964 and continues to meet every International Standard. As it is for maintenance engineering so it is for the other professionals – Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers, Dispatchers, etc.
But the Aero Division of NSE would want the public to believe that the licenses are a mere diploma. But the facts stated above tell otherwise.
4. Who is Qualified to be an Airworthiness Aviation Safety Inspector?
Aviation Safety Inspection is a highly Professional, Knowledge/skill based activity. This is recognized by ICAO who has made apt provisions for the knowledge, skill, and experience needed to be able to carry out the function. This is documented in ICAO Document 8335 (Part 1, Chapter 6) as the Minimum Requirement for Inspector Qualification and Training. A copy of the relevant section is attached as appendix 4 with relevant sections highlighted. The document clearly stipulates the qualifications and individual must posses before being considered for employment as inspector. Some of them are inter-alia (Chapter 6.2.3).
a) a broad air transport background of 5 years or more
b) experience with the problems of operating or maintaining transport aircraft ……
f) experience in auditing techniques
The first line of Part 1, Chapter 6.2.1 of the same document states that “ideally a CAA Inspector should be at least as qualified as the personnel to be inspected or supervised”. While the last line of 6.1 states that “the Inspectors should be aware of the consequence of their actions for aviation safety”.
Drawing directly from the above ICAO Document 8335, the NCAA made compliant provisions in the NCAA’s Airworthiness Policy and Procedures Manual (PPM). The relevant section is attached as appendix 5 with highlights of relevant points.
Chapter 22.214.171.124 states inter – alia that “Initial qualification requirements in order to be considered for employment as a NCAA Airworthiness Inspector include but are not limited to the following:
1. The candidate must posses practical experience and expertise in the application of aviation safety standards and safe operating practices. This would normally be demonstrated by an industry career path which includes not only employment as an aircraft Engineer/mechanic but progression through various maintenance disciplines.
3. ………….. five years relevant work experience to be allowed to work as an Inspector independently”
The same section goes on to state that, “International standards require the candidate to have experience and qualifications comparable to those of the industry staff the Inspector will be dealing with”.
Chapter 1.4.4. states that, “Although Airworthiness Inspectors are not exercising the privilege of their engineer license, when they are performing certification of surveillance activities as required by NCAA, they are required to maintain the same level of knowledge as is required of engineers that are exercising the privilege of their license”.
Chapter 126.96.36.199 paragraph iv states further that, “under no circumstance will a person be nominated as an Aviation Safety Inspector, if the experience criteria are not met”. And what are the experience criteria; to have an aircraft maintenance Engineers License, and to have worked as a licensed AME for 5 years or more.
Further clarification is given in the Aviation Safety Inspector Guide of NCAA’s Airworthiness Standards (copy attached as appendix 6). Chapter 5.2.2 states the required experience as, “at least five years of employment as a fully qualified aircraft maintenance engineer is normally required to obtain minimum qualifications and experience for an individual to adequately accomplish the duties and responsibilities of a basic starting position in the mechanical or avionics fields as an Airworthiness Inspectors”.
Please note the following facts established in unism by all the official documents referred to above:
i) a person cannot be an Airworthiness Aviation Safety Inspector if the person is not a licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer
ii) a person cannot be an Airworthiness Inspector if the person has not worked as a LAME for 5 years or more
iii) for a person to be an inspector, he/she must be equally or more qualified as/than the person to be inspected
iv) airworthiness inspection is not about graduate Engineer vs Licensed Engineer. It is about qualification needed to perform a certain task successfully (in full compliance with international standards)
Against the foregoing background, may we bring the current practice in the NCAA to your attention. The DG in the bid to project and protect his own kind appoints fresh graduates (some have never close to an aircraft before), sends them to NCAT to do a six – month abridged aircraft maintenance course (as against 3½ years), sends them on ojt for six months as against 5 years field experience) awards them aircraft maintenance engineering license, and them makes them Airworthiness Aviation Safety Inspectors, in fragrant disregard of NCAA regulations and ICAO SARPs. The
consequence of this misdemeanor is that flight safety is being grossly compromised, and Nigeria is surviving purely by the grace of God.
5 Is there Only One Kind of Airworthiness Inspection?
The Direct answer to the above question is no. There are infact four, as we stated in our earlier rejoinder. May we expatiate, sir.
a) Design Airworthiness
Aircraft Design is the job of graduate Engineers and is knowledge based. And Design Airworthiness Certification and oversight is the responsibility of the CAA of the COUNTRY OF DESIGN. In doing so, the CAA of the country of design employs the knowledge/qualification of the relevant graduate engineers, in approving designs.
b) Manufacture Airworthiness
Manufacture involves both graduate engineers, and the Licensed Engineers, Pliots, Technologists, Technicians, etc). And Airworthiness Certification and oversight of the manufacture is the responsibility of the CAA of the COUNTRY OF MANUFACTURE. Here the CAA employs the graduate Engineers (knowledge) and the Licensed Professionals (knowledge + SKILL)
c) Maintaining Airworthiness
After the design and manufacture of the aircraft, the product is operated and MAINTAINED while in operation, and hence AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE ENGINEERING which is a totally different and professional kettle of fish. It is so regulated (FOR SAFETY) that being Licensed (type-rated) on a bigger aircraft does not give a Licensed Engineer authority on a smaller aircraft. Every aircraft type (or aircraft series) has as the case may be its own type-rating (License or approval) which means SPECIALIZATION.
Airworthiness Certification/Oversight in this area of the aviation industry is the responsibility of the CAA of the COUNTRY OF REGISTRATION of the aircraft which employs the knowledge and skill of the PROFESSIONALs (Pilots, Maintenance Engineers, Cabin Crew, Flight Dispatchers, Air Traffic Controller), all of whom are licensed.
d Continuing Airworthiness
This is the responsibility of the CAA of the COUNTRY OF DESIGN, and is aimed at supporting and improving the aircraft wherever it is operated worldwide, by way of collating and analyzing reports of field/operational experiences/occurrences and coming up with solutions (Service or operational improvements or system modifications, etc) in the form of Airworthiness Directives (ADs), etc to all operators of the aircraft or product worldwide.
From the forgoing, it can be seen clearly that America and Europe who are involved with design, manufacture, maintenance, and product support of aircraft, practice all four categories of Airworthiness, while Nigeria is involved with only Maintaining airworthiness. As a result, graduate engineers are not really relevant since that type of certification is not needed in aircraft maintenance. Not knowing this, the Aero Division of NSE goes on to list various CEOs of CAAs in America and Europe who are graduates in various fields, without giving thought to the complexity of their airworthiness situation which requires those category of staff.
The NCAA (Nigerian CAA) carries out certification and oversight functions in a ‘MAINTAINING AIRWORTINESS” aviation industry only. And as stated under “Maintaining Airworthiness” in ‘c’ above, this is an industry for the professionals, and where skill and experience are sine qua non.
In those CAAs (FAA inclusive) where there is a combination of the various areas of airworthiness, they have AED (Airworthiness Engineering Department) for the functions of the graduate Engineers and AID (Airworthiness Inspectorate Department) for the functions of Licensed Professionals. NCAA operates only an AID.
As a matter of fact, how come this issue of graduates is associated with Engineers only. Inspectors in the Directorate of Operations and Training (DOT) of NCAA are strictly Licensed Professionals (Pilots, Cabin Crew, Flight Dispatchers, and Air Traffic Controllers). Here, Pilots inspectors must have met the minimum qualification of 5,000hrs flown for experience. There is no talk here about graduates. Why is the case of the Engineer different? This is why we say that Dr. Demuren is only trying to protect and protect his kind, being an Aeronautical Engineer. Why should this be at the expense of people’s lives?
6 How Qualified Really is Dr. Demuren To Be DG of NCAA
This matter is a sore point for many, especially Demuren’s fans. A lot of people are beclouded by blind loyalty, and/ or what their mind tells them are accomplishments. But when you have true knowledge about a thing, as we have in this case, it should not be surprising that you are not carried away by sentiments and emotion. For a person to qualify to be DG of NCAA, the person has to satisfy the combined import of section 8(2) (d) and Part lll section 3 of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006. The first section states that such person must posses “relevant and adequate professional qualifications, and has the qualification for at least 15 years”. The second section lists the required fields of specialization which includes aeronautical Engineering.
The two sections must be satisfied by a would be DG of NCAA to satisfy the Act. We note that Dr. Demuren holds an MSc in Aeronautical Engineering, and a Doctor of Science in Gas Turbine Engineering. So he satisfies the second requirement. But what about the first. Like we said in our earlier rejoinder, the operating wards here are ‘relevant’, ‘professional’, ‘adequate’, and ’15 years’. Dr. Demuren’s academic qualifications, in our view, are not ‘relevant’ in a MAINTAING AIRWORTHINESS environment where there is no aircraft design, manufacture, and product support activities, but only operating and maintaing aircraft.
There are many Aeronautical Engineers in Nigeria who went through the full scale of acquiring Piloting, aircraft maintenance engineering, etc licensed many have multiple ratings, some have gross – ratings (ie. Say piloting and maintenance engineering). These categories of personnel have a qualification that is far more ‘adequate’ than that of Dr. Demuren. Besides, the fact that Dr. Demuren does not have a working experience which would permit him to submit loggings for the purpose of examination of his capability in any relevant professional field. Again we insist that Dr. Demuren has not had any relevant work experience for ’15 years’ prior to his appointment as DG. Owning or managing an airline is not relevant in this case, aside from the fact that it still does not add up if taken into account.
Many people erroneously refer to Dr. Demuren’s initial time with NCAA (then FCAA) up till the time he became the Director of Safety Services. One would have thought that for his sake people would be quiet about that. Because it is on record that Dr. Demuren smuggled himself out of the country in 1995 to avoid being jailed for serious fraudulent activities in the defunct FCAA. The then Minister of Aviation, then Air Commodor Nsikak Eduok vowed to ensure his prosecution, against all entreaties. It was only after Eduok left office that Dr. Demuren returned to the country. That being the case, it is evident that his appointment in the first place was in grave error. This can be forgiven, given the state of many air crashes that precipitated his appointment which denied government the benefit of carrying out due diligence on him.
7 What About Conflict of Interest?
Part 4 section 8 (3) (e) and section 10 (1) – (3) forbids the DG of NCAA and other personnel to have financial interest in any aviation concern. But it is a well known fact that Dr. Demuren is the Chairman of Evergreen Apple (Nig). He also retains his interest in Afrijet. It is also well known to industry stakeholders that operators who refuse to use the evergreen hangar do so at their own peril. If this is not conflict of interest, then the word does not exist.
But it may interest your Excellency to know how Evergreen hangar came about. Capt. Berry Noelle it was who rehabilitated Dr. Demuren when he returned from self exile where he eloped to escape prosecution for fraud in the then FCAA. Capt. Noelle gave him a job to manage Afrijet which he (Noelle) had established, along with other forms of assistance. But what did Demuren do with the opportunity? He used it to steal Afrijet blind through a currency changing deal with the Dana group (DANA?) by which Afrijet lost over N700, 000,000. As a result Afrijet became debt laden and went down. That is not all. Afrijet was already on an aircraft hangar project with land dully approved to Afrijet by FAAN (Documents available). When Demuren found himself as the DG of NCAA he used his powers and influence to ensure that Afrijet was fully grounded, and also changed all particulars of the hangar from Afrijet to Evergreen of which he (Demuren) is the Chairman and his son, the CEO. Happily, Capt. Noelle is alive and well today and we are confident his story will collaborate our own.
Perhaps more important is the big question, where did Dr. Demuren get the money to build such a big facility? Is it from his savings, or is it from his salary as the DG of NCAA, or is it from sources unknown? This is a question to which Mr. President needs to urgently demand for answers.
You can see Mr. President that Dr. Demuren lacks the moral fortitude to lead a safety driven industry like aviation as its umpire. It is actually a miracle that we have survived till date.
8 What is NAAPE’s Stake?
When the issue of flight safety is mentioned, NAAPE belongs to the first line of call. For every fatal crash, a minimum of two of NAAPE’s members go with it- the Captain and the First Officer (Co-Pilot). Some flights carry a training Pilot and some carry maintenance Engineers. This is in addition to the fact that Pilots and Engineers are among aviation personnel who are called to question each time an air incidence or accident occurs. That is why we can no longer keep quiet in the name of keeping the peace when the lives of our members and the air traveling public are being put at risk daily.
9 What About Dissenting Voices?
We are aware that some persons and groups disagree with our views. That is normal in a free, democratic space as is found in Nigeria. Fortunately though, these dissenting voices are all from expected quarters. The known legion of hangars – on of Dr. Demuren. May we mention but a few.
a) Benjamin Okewu, National President of ATSSSAN
The President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), a sister union, released a press statement over last weekend critising the position of NAAPE, and calling us various unprintable names. And what is Benjamin’s qualification to talk about Airworthiness with such authority? He is a graduate of Economics (from ABU) and works as an Auditor in the Finance Department of the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria. See? Surely Mr. President will kindly spare us the burden to having to respond to him, being utterly ignorant. If Benjamin Okewu knew any better, he would not be exposing his ignorance so publicly by saying that the reason Arik outsourced the maintenance of its new generation aircraft to Lufthansa Technic is because there are no qualified Nigerians rated on those aircraft. What Benjamin and others like him do not know is that the difference between Arik’s new Boeing series and the ones before them, in terms of personnel proficiency, is just a 2 – week differential course, which NCAA has collaborated with Arik to deny Nigerians for seven years. And to know that such course is to be offered free by Boeing. This is what a person who says he is a comrade supports.
We are not surprised whatsoever, for we know the source of Benjamin’s new car. We also know that Benjamin’s wife was employed by Dr. Demuren and she has enjoyed a catapulted USA courses twice already. We also have lost count of numerous sundry courses Benjamin has been sponsored to attend abroad by Demuren; courses that have no bearing with trade unionism or financial auditing. So why won’t Benjamin defend Demuren? Demuren is probably more valuable to him than God. Pity.
b) Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), a.k.a Mohammed Joji
Mallam Mohammed Joji (please take note sir, not Captain) is among a band of purported airline operators who will give an arm to see the status quo maintained. They rely on the DG’s largesse for survival. Such largesse come in the form of extensions and waivers, brow-beating of Inspectors to recommend issuance /renewal of AOCs, and looking the other way when AOCs are blatantly abused. Some of them operate ‘AOC for Rent”, without regard for whatever the aircraft carries, and with no capacity whatsoever to determine the state and status of the aircraft a very dangerous trend. In addition to the fact that they do not declare nor remit passenger services taxes to government as required by law. They also operate regular passenger services contrary to their certification as charter operators. These abuses, deliberated over looked by Demuren, fetch huge sums of money to be shared. So why shouldn’t they want the party to go on, even at the risk of loosing lives.
c) Nigeria Society of Engineers, Aero Division
We have already responded to the important aspects of their comments and will not want to belabour the issue, except to say that we understand their interest to be their thinking that the present irregularities favour their group and they would want it preserved. But it is to akin living a lie. It cannot sustain.
10 Threat to Our Lives
We are aware that agents of the DG have been looking through all nooks and cranies in a bid to find something incriminating against our National President. We assure you, dear President that they will find nothing of such. Comrade Isaac Balami, our National President, is an upright, most responsible, hardworking and intelligent young man leading an Executive Council made up of men and women of honour and integrity, who value ethics more than money. Comrade Balami is a fully qualified Engineer with verifiable record. His enrollment at NCAT fully meets ICAO Standard; he was among the first group of 14 to clear his papers at first attempt. His unusual diligence earned him employment with Aero Contractors even as a student of NCAT. Since his graduation from NCAT Balami has garnered licenses (type-rating) on Airframe and Power plant, Gas Turbin Engine, Pressurized Airframe, TB9 0320 D2A Engine, and even the new Hawker 4000 jet after passing the manufacturer’s course with 90% (a distinction). He already has almost 5 years post qualification experience with Aero Contractors where he is currently the Manager in charge of business development in aircraft maintenance, Aero being an Approved Maintenance Organisation (AMO). As a mark of his integrity he refused to accept sponsorship funds from NCAA for a course abroad (for one year now) on the ground that an earlier course approved for him by NCAT was yet to be utilized because of visa problems. The Honourable Minister of Aviation is aware of this, being the approving authority, and the NCAA can attest to the fact. This is why we call on you Mr. President to prevail on the powers that be to stop the harassment and persecution. Moreover, if what we are hearing is anything to go by, then we shall call on you to further offer Comrade Balami police protection as his life is now in danger from those who feel that his trade union activities is a threat to their unlawful means of survival. We request for your urgent action in this regard sir. This is because we remember very vividly that our late National President, Comrade Jerry Agbeyegbe, was assassinated by reactionary forces in 2004 when he was fighting for justice, just as we are doing now.
a) ICAO stipulations on the prequalification and experience of Airworthiness Inspectors are very clear (ICAO Document 8335), and the NCAA Regulations on the same issue are equally clear (PPM Ch.188.8.131.52, 1.4.4, 184.108.40.206.) as well as NCAA Airworthiness standards (Ch5.2.2). NAAPE requests, not that any group be favoured or disfavoured, but simply that NCAA regulations which are in complete alignment with ICAO stipulations be implemented by the DG of NCAA as he is obliged to do under the NCAA Act, 2006. This is so simple, even a dead body can do it.
b) Even though the DG did not merit appointment as DG of NCAA, he has exhausted a full term and is presently enjoying a extension which is unknown to the Act. Our view is that the present DG has lost all moral grounds and the confidence of large portions of professionals In the aviation family to remain the DG of NCAA. His further stay will amount to endorsing illegality, corruption, and incompetence. The time for Mr. President to act is now.
c) We advice the reading public to be dispassionate in their understanding of the rather murky situation that surround us presently and not be deceived by ornamented garments which hide the ravished skin of the leper.
We remain yours most faithfully,
For and on behalf of the National Executive Council of NAAPE.
OPEN LETTER TO MR. PRESIDENT
February 18, 2013
The President and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock Villa
Cc: The Senate President
The Speaker, House of Representatives
The Hon. Minister of Aviation
The Special Adviser to the President on Aviation
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation
The Chairman, House Committee on Aviation
The President General/Secretary General, TUC