In Nigeria, domestic airline operators are asking the government to look into the recurring cases of air mishaps due to the destruction of airplane engines by collisions with birds. The airline operators say in the recent year, the country’s airlines have incurred huge losses, due to birds flying into airplane engines during the craft’s landing and take off. The airline operators say the bad publicity could lead to a drop in business and in job losses. Voice of America English to Africa reporter Jacqueline Ogoh in Lagos says crashes caused by birds are a threat to the economic survival of Nigeria’s airlines. They destroy sensitive engine blades, housing and airflow ducts, often leaving an airplane out of commission for several weeks at a time.
Seventeen domestic airlines were able to make it through the Nigerian government’s April deadline for recapitalization and seven others are going through recertification. Their spokespeople say the government should do more to control the menace of birds at the country’s airports.
The station manager of Nicon Airways Nigeria, Kayode Adeniran, says his airline recently lost an engine to a bird strike. He says the cost of such incidents is huge, “It is not easy to refurbish an engine. The earliest time you can get it back is at least four weeks. Eventually your schedule will be disrupted for that period…loss of revenue. If care is not taken, it can even affect staff in the form of reducing staff. When it occurs frequently, it affects the insurance of the airlines. When the insurance companies see that the incident is rampant in your country, the aircraft insurance premium goes up.”
Airline operators say a plane’s engine can cost as much as $50,000 or more, depending on the price scale of the manufacturer. Repairs may cost as much as $30,000. Smaller airlines, which have fewer aircraft, suffer most during the loss of engines from a bird strike.
Nicon Airways, which has three aircraft, has decided to suspend its entire operation for one month, hoping the government will take effective measures against the birds before it resumes operation.
Mister Adeniran, who also doubles as a spokesperson for Nicon Airways, says the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria should go beyond holding seminars on curbing bird strikes. He says a more practical approach is called for, like appealing to nearby communities to stop cultivating crops that attract birds.
Mister Paul Egede, the station manager of Sosoliso Airlines, Nigeria, shares the same view. He says for Nigeria’s aviation industry to surmount its challenges, the authorities must be more assertive,“The aviation ministry...should be run on proactive basis, not crisis basis. Nobody has been able to offer solutions on proactive basis. Instead, when it happens, they start holding meetings and conferences. That is not how to find solution to a problem.”
Taking further steps to find out what the government is doing about the problem through the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the General Manager of the public affairs unit, Mister Akin Olukunle said about $488,000 has already been spent to purchase specialized bird control equipment like pyrotechnics and bio-acoustics. They include sirens and other noise generators to ward off birds from around the airport.
Olukunle also said the federal government has released an additional $133,000 to the authority under a program drawn to tackle the problem. He says of Nigeria’s 21 airports, the international ones will get the first attention.
Olukunle, however, complained that some of Nigeria’s local airline operators are exaggerating the issue, because he says only 20 of the 115 aircraft incidents recorded in Nigeria in 2006 were caused by bird strikes, “What the operators are saying is not [accurate]. Out of those incidents, we just have 20 bird strikes, making about 17.4 per cent of the total incidents. The problem is not entirely with the airports authority of Nigeria. Some of the operators…after finishing their operations, dump remnants of food at the airport…and those things attract birds. If we want to completely put the birds under control, it should be a collective thing.”
As the government tries to find lasting solutions to the loss of airplane engines to bird strikes, Nigeria’s local airline operators say their businesses rely on consumer confidence. They say action is the only way to provide for everyone’s well-being.