Saturday, 8 March 2014
Re- Looming Flight Safety Crisis In Nigeria: Institute Of Nigerian Aeronautical Engineers (INAE) Rejoinder To NAAPE
As a matter of Policy, INAE has no intention to join issues with party(ies), who prefer the path of unscientific assumptions and parsimony with the truth with the sole purpose of destabilizing the Civil Aviation Industry for their own parochial objectives. Rather, we are compelled to set the records straight by putting pertinent issues in their proper perspectives using documented facts in order that the policy makers and the unsuspecting Nigerian Public are not hoodwinked and misled.
THE CIVIL AVIATION ACT, 2006 (AN ACT OF THE FEDERAL LEGISLATURE)
The Civil Aviation Act, 2006 – Part VIII – Investigation and Enforcement at subpart 29 (12) clarifies “the sole objective of the investigation of an accident or serious incident under this Act shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents. It shall not be the purpose of such an investigation to apportion blame or liability”. This statement is a total reflection of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 12 – Accident Investigation. To do otherwise is negate the fundamental objectives of Accident Investigation.
In Part IX – The Authority’s power to regulate Civil Aviation, Subpart 30 (1) says “The Authority may by regulation make such provisions as expedient” and in 30 (2)t “regarding the design, construction and modification of aircraft and all other matters connected with the design, construction and maintenance of aircraft”. The implication here is that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) shall regulate all aspects of aircraft technology and not aircraft maintenance alone. Suffice to point out also that even the subject of aircraft maintenance today has gone beyond repair and replacement of components. It has been elevated to the level of airborne parameter monitoring, diagnostics and corrective actions, which calls for advanced control engineering and reliability disciplines. For any true Professional to equate aircraft maintenance to the totality of the multi dimensional aspects of Safety regulation is an absurdity extended to the highest level. Or on the other hand to correlate aircraft accident rates to the absence of maintenance technicians in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is to neglect the multilateral causes of accidents, one of which is human factors. Human factors are responsible for circa 80% - 90% of accidents globally. We must underline that the modern CAA is responsible for Safety Oversight, which is an advanced discipline on its own and not aircraft maintenance. There are copious ICAO and Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations that sufficiently deal with Safety Oversight, some of which we shall reference in this submission.
Similarly, the Act in subpart 30(8) states “The Director General shall establish the credentials of the Safety Inspectors of the Authority”, which the incumbent CEO / DG has done in the Technical Guidance Materials (TGM) published by the NCAA and which has been strictly adhered to in the recruitment, training and deployment of the present crop of Aviation Safety Inspectors. Or we may ask: Is the DG contradicting the principles and procedures of the NCAA TGM? Clearly the answer is No.
Again, in the Civil Aviation Act, Part XIV – Offences,
At subpart 61 – (1) Duty of Operators
(2) Duties of Air Operators
(3) Duties of Airmen
It is clearly enunciated that the responsibility for Safety lies with the Air Operator and its Personnel. In all these, where is it that it is the NCAA Aviation Safety Inspectors that have been causing accidents in Nigeria? when the privilege to release an aircraft after maintenance is that of the licensed aircraft maintenance personnel, who must take responsibility for the work he has done. It is an established fact that the Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A) issued by NCAA to an aircraft becomes invalid automatically, if the aircraft is not appropriately maintained by the owner, operator or maintenance personnel. The CAA would need an army of maintenance technicians to check every maintenance task in the hangar, on the tarmac, at the Approved Maintenance Organisations etc. to police every action of maintenance personnel if we are to go by NAAPE’s hypothesis.
It is important to emphasize at this juncture that the CAA must do Safety Oversight through Issuance of Safety Certificates and compliance with the Critical Elements of Safety Oversight in a scientific manner even where Critical Element No. 7 – Surveillance is concerned.
Qualification of NCAA’s Airworthiness Aviation Safety Inspectors
One of the outrageous claims made by NAAPE in its rejoinder is that “as long as non licensed AMEs are in charge of Safety Inspection, so long shall we remain in the regime of unsafe flights, for no one can guarantee the true state of adherence to proper maintenance schedules.”
NAAPE on other occasions made references to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This ranting by NAAPE is really laughable because an analysis of the qualifications of the Chief Executives and officers in charge of technical safety in these reputable international regulatory bodies reveals the unsubstantiated claim by NAAPE that you must be a type-rated licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) to preside over the CAA or be charged with Safety Inspection.
Funnily, NAAPE goes ahead “to encourage interested members of the public to visit the websites of ICAO, FAA, CAA, NCAA, and other CAAs worldwide and learn for themselves the current practice with regard to aviation safety inspection”. Any rationally minded person, after doing this would wonder whether NAAPE, indeed, heeded its own advice!
Micheal Huerta, the Administrator/CEO of the FAA, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Carlifornia-Riverside plus a Master’s in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He acquired the necessary experience required for his current position by holding senior positions at the U.S Department of Transportation (the equivalent of our own Ministry of Aviation), then moving to the FAA as Deputy Administrator, Acting Administrator and subsequently, Administrator/Chief Executive. The Associate Administrator, in charge of Aviation Safety, Margaret Gilligan leads the organization responsible for setting, overseeing, and enforcing safety standards for all parts of the U.S aviation industry – airlines, manufacturers, repair stations, pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, and any person or product that operates in aviation. She is a 1979 graduate of Boston University School of Law and a 1975 graduate of Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY.
The FAA may use licensed Mechanics with Airframe & Power ratings as Airworthiness Aviation Safety Inspectors, but that does not imply the exclusion of graduates. One of many such Inspectors is Jim Gotha, who though is licensed, studied Aircraft Maintenance Management at Western Michigan University.
Gretchen Haskins, the Director of Safety at the UK CAA holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Human Factors Engineering from the United States Airforce Academy and the University of Southern California respectively. The Head of Airworthiness, Padhraic Kelleher holds a BE in Electronics Engineering from the National University of Ireland, Galway plus an MSc. Aerodynamics and Flight Control from Cranfield University. NAAPE may be glad to know that a licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer is in charge of Licensing and Training Standards at the UK CAA, however, Engr. Raymond Elgy (also a holder of a PPL) did not just stop at that, he is a Chartered Aeronautical Engineer with a BSc. (Hons) in Air Transport Engineering obtained at the City University (GB), needless to hypothesize if this additional superior qualification is what stood him in good stead for his current position.
According to the EASA SAFA Guidance Material, there are seven (7) eligibility requirements for becoming a Ramp Inspector, the candidate only has to fulfill one of them. We shall enumerate the three which are relevant to Airworthiness oversight:
The first requirement is that the person
- has successfully completed post-secondary education with a duration of at least 3 years and after that, at least 2 years aeronautical experience in the field of aircraft operations or maintenance, or personnel licensing;
The fifth is that the person
-has been licensed as maintenance personnel and preferably exercised the privileges of such licence for at least 2 years;
While the seventh states that the candidate
-has successfully completed post-secondary aeronautical education with a duration of at least 3 years;
From these 3 requirements, it is obvious that Nigeria’s NCAA, even though not bound by these Regulations, is still in full compliance with them.
A post-secondary education with a duration of at least 3 years certainly includes University and Polytechnic education which, in Nigeria, takes 5yrs and 4yrs respectively to complete an Engineering course. As a matter of policy and in accordance with the Inspector Training System (ITS), the NCAA, upon employing Engineering Graduates sends the non-aeronautical engineers amongst them to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) in Zaria for a basic professional education in Aircraft Maintenance. Upon successful completion, they return to the NCAA where they are deployed to the various Airlines and Approved Maintenance Organizations to undergo a 6-month practical On-the-Job Training (OJT) still on aircraft maintenance. The completion of this OJT still does not entitle these NCAA officers to function as Inspectors. They are then put through the core safety oversight responsibilities under the supervision of senior Inspectors until they are fully qualified to stand alone. These processes would definitely require more than 2 years to complete.
The next requirement satisfies the utilization of licensed AMEs as Inspectors. The NCAA currently has this group of Inspectors in its employ.
The last requirement above makes no mention of ‘experience’ but rather, talks solely about post-secondary aeronautical education of at least 3yrs duration. Only a body infected with acute ignorance such as NAAPE would say that this eligibility requirement does not cover Aeronautical Engineering education. In the NCAA, such aeronautical engineering graduates may be exempted from proceeding to NCAT, Zaria, but like graduates of other engineering fields, must undergo practical OJT and subsequent Inspector supervision as explained earlier before being qualified as Inspectors. On the other hand, the duration for obtaining a diploma in aircraft maintenance engineering at NCAT, which in the not-too-distant past used to be a mere 90 weeks is now 120 weeks. This vocational-type education certainly does not meet this requirement.
It would be interesting to know the qualifications of the people running EASA, wouldn’t it? Below are the names and qualifications of its Chief Executive and his four directors:
i. The Head of EASA is the Executive Director, Patrick Goudou who after graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris went on to train at the Ecole Superieure de l'Aeronautique et de l' Espace in Toulouse with a specialization in aero-engines. (similar to Dr. Demuren’s specialization in Gas Turbine engines)
ii. The Director of Rulemaking, Jules Kneepkens graduated from the Utrecht University in Social Sciences with a focus on International Political Relations and Development Co-operation (University of Amsterdam).
iii. The Director of Certification, Dr. Norbert Lohl had his University Education in Physics before proceeding to the German Aeronautics Research Center DLR on Flight Guidance and Navigation where he made his Doctor-Engineer degree in Aeronautics.
iv. The Director of Approvals and Standardization, Trevor Woods graduated in Aeronautical Engineering and was later awarded a Master of Business Administration.
v. Finally, is the Finance & Business Services Director, Luc Vanheel who has a degree in Applied Economic Sciences from the University of Leuven (K.U.L).
Resolution: After sampling these agencies NAAPE made references to, it can be seen that ALL, and we repeat, ALL the people saddled with managing Safety are Graduates. Not a single person is just a licensed AME! We wonder why Nigeria should be left behind by appointing non-graduates to the top positions of the NCAA, particularly those positions in charge of Airworthiness oversight. Does NAAPE intend to make Nigeria a laughing stock among her peers? Thankfully, we can stand tall with our counterparts in other countries of the world with the calibre of professionals currently in charge at the NCAA.
NAAPE postulated that “NCAA Regulation clearly lists the pre-qualifications of Inspectors in section 2.6.3 (1) – (6) among which is that the Inspector must be Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer who has practiced for a minimum of 3 years.” Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact we are dumbfounded at the depth of lack of understanding being displayed by these characters on the pages of newspapers! This is a total fabrication which should only be perpetuated by fraudsters.
First of all, the (mis)quoted regulation does not even exist! The closest real thing to NAAPE’s imaginary section is section 18.104.22.168 (1) – (5). We wish to inform the Nigerian public that the requirements in this section strictly and solely concern applicants for, what is termed, an Inspection Authorization (IA). These applicants are experienced licensed AMEs working in the Airlines and Maintenance Organizations who wish to be authorized to inspect and approve for return to service any aircraft or related part or appliance after a major repair or major alteration. Also, the holder of an IA may perform an annual inspection and he or she may supervise or perform a progressive inspection.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the Qualification Requirements of NCAA Aviation Safety Inspectors which NAAPE mischievously alluded to! NAAPE owes the Nigerian public an apology for this misinformation.
NAAPE also made a statement where it ‘decreed’ that “there are 4 areas of Airworthiness Regulations”. NAAPE should go further to state the source of such a phantom declaration.
NAAPE quoted ICAO Document 9734, part A, Chapter 3 which deals with CE-4 (Critical Element 4) i.e. Technical Personnel (qualification and training) but went ahead to manufacture its own interpretation by saying “Qualifications are not only possession of licenses, but coupled with extensive relevant field (Airline) experience in Aviation Industry”.
We wish to dismiss this phony interpretation by reproducing 22.214.171.124 of this section which reads as follows: The States Authorities must determine the minimum professional qualifications for their technical personnel performing safety oversight functions and also provide for the technical and administrative training necessary for them to effectively accomplish their duties and responsibilities. In compliance, the NCAA has determined its own minimum qualifications and this is clearly documented in Volume 4, Airworthiness Inspector Handbook; Policy and Procedures Manual (PPM), section 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52. Furthermore, section 1.4 takes care of Technical Training.
NAAPE, in a futile attempt to discredit the otherwise laudable policy of training Engineering Graduates at NCAT, deploying them to the Industry for practical OJT and then encouraging them to sit for AME Licence examinations, misfired once again by retorting that this noble action is “..in fragrant contravention of the NCAA act which stipulates clear guidelines for the issuance of AME licenses that require practical experience with a functional airline for a minimum of 3 yrs.”
We cannot help but wonder where NAAPE obtains these imaginary documents. This is another case of voodoo journalism as there is nowhere in the Civil Aviation Act 2006 where guidelines or requirements for licensing AMEs was even mentioned, yet alone discussed! The appropriate place to look for such information is Part 2 of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations.
To further disabuse the minds of the public, we wish to inform Nigerians that there are clear guidelines as stated in Volume 1, Personnel Licensing Handbook of the NCAA governing the issuance of AME Licenses. The Director General has no powers to personally issue an AME License, or any license for that matter, to any individual. So we could only read in amusement when NAAPE accused Dr. Demuren of “..issuing them type rated AME licenses” (‘them’ referring to Inspectors).
For the enlightenment of the general public, NCAA Inspectors who after completing the basic training at NCAT, underwent practical OJT in the field, then opted to sit for & passed the AME License examinations, did so at their own personal volition which is justified and commendable. However, these licenses remain moribund as long as they are in the employ of NCAA. Licenses and type-ratings are, on the other hand, mandatory for personnel who maintain aircraft, engines and its components. These are the technical personnel working in the airlines and maintenance organizations, not in the NCAA. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations forbids anyone from performing any form of maintenance on an aircraft without a valid license. No personnel shall sign a maintenance release certificate without being duly type-rated on the aircraft type he is releasing to service.
The NCAA Inspectors are employed to enforce these Regulations by, amongst others, ensuring that the appropriately qualified personnel do the job, and not do the job for the personnel! What then is the use of a license or a type-rating to an NCAA Airworthiness Inspector when he is forbidden from exercising the privileges of that license? NCAA Inspectors are, instead, type-qualified by taking part in aircraft and engine manufacturers courses. These are exactly the same courses attended by licensed AMEs which upon successful completion, form the basis for their application to be type-rated.
But beyond being just type-qualified, NCAA Airworthiness Inspectors are auditors and so, we must guard against reducing their function to the role of just supervising the tightening of nuts & bolts. Rather, and very importantly, they must be knowledgeable in areas of certification, surveillance, investigation, compliance & enforcement, modification, aircraft type-acceptance, review of manuals & documents, quality assurance, technical records management, effective auditing techniques, aircraft pre-importation requirements, aircraft registration, noise certification, etc. These are crucial responsibilities Airworthiness Inspectors discharge equitably to promote Safety. It is not about holding license.
It must be emphatically reiterated that there is no mandatory requirement either in the Civil Aviation Act or the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations for Airworthiness Inspectors to be Licensed or Type-rated to carry out NCAA’s Safety Oversight functions. It is therefore tremendously reckless of NAAPE to conjure such falsehood.
Eligibility/Qualification of the Director General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren
NAAPE went on to attack the qualification, experience and suitability of Dr. Demuren to hold the office of DG, NCAA saying “The only qualification that comes near the requirements envisaged by the Act in the Director General’s resume, with due respect, is his type rating on Russian aircraft, llushin, 62. But llushin is now extinct for long. We, therefore, do not see any qualification of Harold Demuren which truly qualifies him to be Director General as per the Regulations. Particularly, we are not aware that Demuren held any professional job or practical experience with any airline or organization for upward of 15 years prior to his appointment.”
This is another laughable assertion by NAAPE which does not merit being uttered even in the beer parlour. We had earlier given the qualifications of his counterparts at top internationally respected aviation authorities NAAPE made references to, plus the DG had already reeled out his highly impressive academic and professional accomplishments in the said publication.
We certainly do not hold brief for Dr. Demuren, we would simply refer the public to the two portions of the Civil Aviation Act 2006 which prescribe the eligibility requirements for a Director General. Dr. Demuren had mentioned one of them i.e. section 8(2)(d) stating that the director-general shall be a person “who possesses relevant and adequate professional qualifications, and has the qualification for at least 15 years.”
The second reference is Part III Section 3 which states that The Chairman and members of the Board, including the Director-General, shall be persons of recognized expert knowledge, qualification and experience of not less than ten years in one or more of the following fields:
(a) Aeronautical Engineering
(b) Aviation Law
(c) Air Transport Management,
(d) Aerodrome Engineering,
(e) Aircraft Piloting, or
It is pretty obvious that Dr. Demuren with an MSc in Aeronautical Engineering, Doctor of Science in Gas Turbine Engineering plus his 30-year career span from a Senior Airworthiness Surveyor in 1976 to his exit as Director of Safety Services in 1995 plus his 10-year sojourn managing an airline, more than aptly satisfies this requirement. The Nigerian public can see from the fields enumerated above that being a licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer is NOT a requirement for the position of DG, NCAA!
Probably, NAAPE is foolhardily looking for such non-existent requirement in the Regulations as they (mis)quoted, rather than in the Act.
Nigeria’s ICAO Certification and U.S FAA Category 1 Status
It is humourous that NAAPE seeks to identify with the achievements of the NCAA under the leadership of Dr. Demuren in a desperate bid to make itself relevant. The rudderless association somersaults and suddenly says “The DG has been very upbeat about the achievement of ICAO Universal Safety Audit Certification and U.S. FAA Category-1 Certification. He has very good reason to be. We are ourselves part of that feat, and are indeed very happy about it too.”
Now, if this is not hypocrisy at the most shameless level, then that word does not exist. How would Nigeria have achieved these monumental feats if the lies and distortions NAAPE had been spitting were accurate? How would the NCAA have passed excellently audits of both ICAO and the very strict FAA if there are only 7 qualified Airworthiness Inspectors out of 45? Or with an unqualified Director General?
The Roles of a Graduate Engineer vs a Licensed AME
After, in one breath, accusing the DG, NCAA of seeking “..to create dichotomy between AMEs and Aeronautical Engineers which is uncalled for and most unbecoming”, NAAPE, in another breath went ahead to ignite the dichotomy fire and fuel it by retorting as follows “it must be stated without equivocation that the AME is the person qualified to speak about aircraft maintenance and airworthiness while the Aeronautical Engineer is qualified to speak about aircraft design and manufacture. No dichotomy whatsoever. It is interesting to note that in airlines under other CAAs, Aeronautical Engrs work only in Technical records and technical stores, but have nothing to do with aircraft maintenance”.
While NAAPE seeks to take the nation on a jolly ride to the theatre of the absurd, we, the aviation professionals owe it to the Nigerian public to inform them on the true position regarding the responsibilities of these two disciplines.
In a well-organized airline and maintenance organization, the roles and responsibilities of both graduate engineers and licensed maintenance mechanics (as they are called in other climes) are clearly delineated. The mechanics are mostly required on the hangar floor to carry out the required maintenance or inspection and simply follow the instructions in the maintenance manual and the task cards. The graduate engineers are in the Technical Services where they handle development of engineering repairs and modification, development of maintenance programme, reliability monitoring and analysis, review and embodiment of Airworthiness Directives/Service Bulletins, maintenance planning, project planning to mention a few. These activities require cerebral acumen.
This brings us to NAAPE’s comical assertion regarding who can speak authoritatively on maintenance and airworthiness issues. By their training, licensed AMEs do not possess the technical ability to develop information for continuing airworthiness of aircraft. These are being done by the graduate engineers who designed the aircraft and from analysis, know what maintenance is required to ensure Continuing Airworthiness. This is simple common sense. Failure mode and effect analysis, and reliability analysis are used in the development of maintenance requirements for aircraft continuing airworthiness. Again, this is clearly beyond the curricular with which licensed AMEs where trained.
Status of an ENGINEER
NAAPE made reference to the following statement “The DG gave an analogy by which he likened the relationship between an AME and Aeronautical Engineer to that between an Automobile Engineer and a Mechanic, and Electrical Engineer and an electrician, a structural Engineer and a Draughtsman”. In trying in vain to shrug off this statement of fact, NAAPE postulated that “..with due respect, the relationship between AMEs and Aeronautical Engineers is not anything like the others mentioned. There is no question of seniority whatsoever. One may enroll in a university to study aeronautical engineering or aircraft maintenance engineering. It is a matter of choice.”
We see a clever strategy by NAAPE to equate a licensed AME to a Graduate Engineer by hiding under the notion of ‘choice’ thus trying to deceive the non aviation-savvy public that they ‘chose’ to enroll in the university to study aircraft maintenance engineering, rather than aeronautical engineering. Well, we would like to inform the public that these licensed AMEs in NAAPE did their post-secondary education at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) where they obtained a diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. They went on to acquire AME Licenses from the NCAA or its predecessor bodies as the case may be. That is their highest academic qualification!
In fact, Nigeria is one of the very few countries in the world where people who went to a specialized training institution like NCAT for a mere 2 years, come out being called Engineers! In the USA, these licensed personnel are called Mechanics and in some other parts of the world, they are called Certifying Staff Engineering regulatory bodies preclude such persons from using the appellation “Aircraft Maintenance Engineer” as is being used in Nigeria. Worldwide, an aspirant for the title of ‘Engineer’ is typically required to undergo a three, four or five-year university degree programme.
We must also be mindful that there are many Nigerian Graduate Engineers who acquired licenses to enable them work as maintenance engineers in airlines and maintenance organizations, and are therefore also licensed AMEs. These set of professionals do not identify with the gimmicks of NAAPE.
NAAPE also tried to cajole the public by making analogies to the military profession saying “..a graduate who undergoes direct short service commission has a limitation to the level he can rise in the Army, Airforce or Navy. While one who goes through a regular training in the Nigeria Defence Academy has no limit to his profession and so can become a General. So it is with AMEs who goes through regular full training and become AMEs compare to Demuren’s graduates who go through a crash programme of six months and he wants them to be authorities in the field”.
It has become crystal clear that NAAPE would stop at nothing to satisfy its egoistic appetite. Both NCAT and NDA are noble institutions each important in its own right and therefore, do not need to be dragged into this narrow-minded display of status decoration being embarked upon by NAAPE. The NDA has since progressed into a degree-awarding institution which graduates Nigerian and foreign military engineers, doctors, etc. The academy even boasts of a Postgraduate School that consists of 3 Faculties with 14 degree awarding Departments. Officers who graduate from such an institution are comparable to University and Polytechnic graduates, so we wonder why they should not aspire to be Generals one day. Conversely, these graduate officers cannot be compared to licensed AMEs whose highest academic qualification is a college diploma (at best equivalent to National Diploma).
The Role of Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN)
The only authority in Nigeria statutorily and legally established to determine who an Engineer is, is the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). COREN is an agency of the Federal Government set up vide the “Engineers (Registration, etc) Act, CAP E11 of 2004” Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The NCAT Diploma which the licensed AMEs possess does not qualify them to be called ‘Engineers’, they cannot even be called Technologists. The appropriate engineering cadre for holders of such qualification according to COREN’s approved schedule is Technician! This can be verified by visiting COREN’s website on www.coren.gov.ng and clicking on the ‘Becoming a Registered COREN Member’ link. If NAAPE is a law abiding association, then it should have no problem obeying an Act of Parliament as its members, like all engineering personnel practicing in Nigeria, are subject to the dictates of COREN.
Fraudulent Qualification of the NAAPE President, 29-year old Isaac Balami
Upon reading NAAPE’s publication, we were struck by the number of times the integrity, qualifications, character and professional competence of the DG of NCAA was attacked. The frequency and ease with which NAAPE attempted to malign the personality of Dr. Demuren made it imperative that we look at the leadership of this body called NAAPE to determine its moral standing and impetus to throw about such frivolous allegations. We must re-state that we do not hold brief for Dr. Demuren as this is beyond him, his office or the NCAA.
We wish to inform the nation that we are currently questioning the circumstances that led to the admission of Isaac Balami into the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) in the first place. We have it on good authority that Isaac Balami did not pass English Language, Mathematics and Physics at School Certificate level! In fact he had only 3 credits. He therefore fell short of the admission requirements for NCAT. Having smuggled his way into NCAT, he failed his diploma examination and thus, had to re-sit. The records are there for verification. Isaac Balami’s woeful performance did not stop there; he failed his AME license examinations, particularly on Gas Turbine Engines, and only scaled through after repeated attempts. With such questionable characters at the helm of affairs at NAAPE, little wonder the rascality and utmost lack of respect being displayed to Nigerians by repeatedly churning out outright falsehood!
The Real Plot of NAAPE
We see the current NCAA as a fully professionalized parastatal with adequately qualified technical personnel. This fact has been attested to by Nigeria’s own Aviation Industry, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), U.S Federal Aviation Administration and other international aviation entities. Licensed AMEs obtained their Diploma in aircraft maintenance engineering from NCAT and it is a matter of fact that some of the instructors who taught these NAAPE AMEs at NCAT are past and present Aviation Safety Inspectors in the NCAA. This calls to question the rationale behind former students now labeling their former instructors as ‘unqualified’! Inspectors at the NCAA also conducted examinations for these AMEs, evaluated them and issued licences to the successful candidates. Now licensed, these AMEs then turn around to sound alarm that their former examiners are not qualified. This stands logic on its head!
Rather than NAAPE evolving developmental, monitoring and disciplinary strategies among its corps of aircraft maintenance personnel to step up its compliance to Aircraft Manuals and other Manufacturers’ documents; to improve the state of the Art, to get more academically educated and to assist Nigeria to grow technologically, it is contented with finding unsubstantiated faults with graduate engineers, who are their partners in the engineering family and who necessarily must be the head in any engineering undertaking as there is hierarchy in any profession.
It is widely known in the sector that the noise NAAPE is making is part of a grand plot to cause panic and fear in the minds of the general public in the clandestine hope that there would be, as a consequence, pressure on government to effect changes in NCAA paving the way for them to come in and replace Graduate Engineers as Airworthiness Safety Inspectors. This has been a long sought dream of NAAPE.
NCAA’s Role and the Future of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Industry
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority must provide Safety Oversight to the Civil Aviation Industry of today and tomorrow. In doing so, it must attain capability in all the ICAO Annexes (1 - 18) vis-à-vis Manpower, Infrastructure, Recurrent Training etc. This Safety Oversight function shall cover the aircraft and the environment it will operate. Both the aircraft and the environment it will operate influence the safety attained as effective safety will continue to be determined by Human Factors, Technology, Weather, Air Traffic Control, Navigational Aids, Safety Management Systems (SMS), Flight Dispatch, Airmanship etc. and not only Aircraft Maintenance.
Additionally, the NCAA of today and tomorrow will be saddled with participation at ICAO and other international fora, at Regional and Bilateral Cooperation Meetings, in the development of ICAO Annexes, in Rule Making Exercises by FAA, EASA, and Transport Canada etc; in technical fora with Aircraft and Engine Manufacturers, in major and minor modification to aircraft. It would be involved in Design and Manufacture of Aeronautical Products. Therefore, NCAA must be manned by the brightest and the best – true technocrats trained in the Design, Manufacture and Development of Aeronautical Products, but also well trained in providing Safety Oversight in Maintenance and other allied services. Rather than be constrained to the Civil Aviation of the last Century as NAAPE would want Nigeria to be, we must move forward to match the productivity of countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and India that are now proud producers or joint producers of aircraft. Rather than discourage the use of graduate engineers in the industry, their utilization should be accentuated and not constrained to stores and technical records as NAAPE would want the World to believe.
The Legislature, Executive Arm of Government and Aviation Managers will take Nigeria back to the dark centuries, if they leave the commanding heights of Civil Aviation Management to technicians and craftsmen of whatever designation.
The Military Establishment in Nigeria has upgraded its Training Institutions to Degree and Postgraduate Institutions such that their products are not only combatants but technocrats in their own right. This could be said of NDA. But what about the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) that in partnership with Cranfield University, Britain is training technocrats and aircraft designers at Masters and Ph.D levels. For example, we know that AFIT is developing DRONES even for commercial applications like Pipeline Monitoring, Border Patrol, Aerial Survey etc. It is also developing better variants of its aircraft trainers, which may also see civil utilization. Now or in the immediate future, the CAA must be involved for the Type Certification of the Design, Development, Production and Operation of these aircraft. These are the challenges that will face the NCAA of today and tomorrow.
Government, in its drive for Investments in the Civil Aviation Industry will stimulate partnerships with Manufacturers for the production or part production of aeronautical parts, construction of modern hangars, jet propulsion test stands, numerically controlled machines for the fabrication of jigs and fixtures etc.
The fate that NCAT deserves therefore in the immediate future is to be able to produce professionals that are skillful and productive intellectuals and who would together with Aeronautical, Mechanical, Electronics, Structural, Mechatronics etc Engineers achieve the Millennium Development goals of Nigeria and the Nation’s Year 20-20 dream appropriately regulated by a modern and techno-centric Civil Aviation Authority.
Finally, the Aviation sector is safe, contrary to the fallacy being peddled by NAAPE and their paymasters. We witnessed 5 consecutive years without a commercial aircraft accident until the very unfortunate DANA crash of last June. Between that crash and now, there have been over 500 flights which have been safely conducted. GOD remains the ultimate protector and preserver of life, notwithstanding, the NCAA must not rest on its oars but must imbibe the lessons from that regrettable tragedy and further improve its safety delivery for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Cc: The President & C-in-C, Federal Republic of Nigeria
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation
The Honourable Minister of Aviation
The Director General, NCAA