About five years after its takeover, Aero Contractors has shown signs of rebound with the acquisition of two Airbus 320 aircraft.
The additional equipment, The Guardian learnt, will help deepen fleet capacity and expand route networks nationwide. Aviation stakeholders have described the development as a sign of resilience.
Aero Contractors, the oldest airline in the country, came under receiver-manager when it was, in 2016, taken over by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
With the airline then on the brink of collapse, the new management team switched focus to upgrading its Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, towards providing the much-needed routine maintenance locally.
The Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) recorded a breakthrough and rolled out the commercial services in 2018, following Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s (NCAA) accreditation of its C-checks.
In another milestone, the airline took delivery of two Airbus 320 from Heston airline in Lithuania recently.
Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Capt. Abdullahi Mahmood, said it was a great day for all at the airline, especially seeing the reward of hard work and strategic planning come to fruition.
Mahmood said: “We are pleased to secure the two aircraft through House of Five A’s, which will boost our fleet to serve the Nigerian market while making us more efficient and offer more comfort to our customers.”
He noted that the new generation aircraft is the first of its kind in the Nigerian market. However, “they re suitable to our operations in this market. We have established an excellent relationship with the lessors and the financier and we are looking forward to a stronger relationship between both parties.”
The 180-seater aircraft are on wet-lease (ACMI), which comes with a maintenance plan from lessors.
“We have acquired the right equipment for the local market and our fleet. They bring our equipment to six. They are efficient, especially as the parts are more readily available and more fuel-efficient. We want to build the capacity of our fleet and give more comfort to our passengers with the ambience of freshly looking cabins.
“The increase of our fleet size will help boost our market share and serve more destinations, while giving our customers more seats. These additional aircraft surely will help us address issues of delays and cancellations. This has been a challenge for us but we are confident that our On-Time Performance (OTP) will receive a massive boost from now,” Mahmood said.
Head of the AMO, James Ominiyi, said besides meeting the critical need of its parent company with five C-checks already done locally, the maintenance facility had completed seven checks for Air Peace, three for Max Air, one for Dana Air, and two ongoings for Air Peace airline.
He added that the Aero AMO had got the approval rating of DR Congo and Ghana Civil Aviation, with new partnerships with Tunisia, Malta and Mongolia in the offing.
“We are widening our operations to ensure that local airlines do not have to go overseas and spend heavily on doing C-checks. Doing it here saves at least $50,000 that would have been spent on fueling, flight charges and crew allowances.
“We are expanding our hangar to accommodate more aircraft at a time. We have reached an agreement to set up a hangar in Abuja. We already have 45 engineers training on E145 and Q400 airplanes. We will have to buy equipment and also get approvals from the NCAA. But the journey has begun,” Ominiyi said.
Aero Contractors is also partnering with the Cross Rivers State government to run its new airline, Cally Air. With two B737 aircraft on the ground, Cally Air will benefit from Aero’s technical expertise and avoid pitfalls of startups in a sector that abhors errors.