Nigeria bars Boeing 737 Max from its airspace

Nigeria’s civil aviation authority has issued all necessary advisory to local and foreign airlines.
A general view of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on February 24, 2016. – Authorities plan to close the airport for six weeks starting on March 8, 2017 to upgrade the runway. All flights will be diverted to Kaduna city forcing people to commute to Abuja via road or rail. (Photo by STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP)

Nigeria has barred the embattled Boeing 737 Max from entering into its airspace, as no domestic carrier operates such planes; joining many countries to down the aircraft that has been involved in two fatal accidents in less than five months, killing all onboard. 

The country’s aviation minister, Hadi Sirika after a Wednesday cabinet meeting told journalists at the Aso Rock presidential villa in Abuja that Nigeria’s civil aviation authority has issued all necessary advisory to local and foreign airlines. 

“Regarding Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9, that has been in the news recently, there is no cause for alarm as there is no operator in Nigeria that is using that type of airplane.” Sirika said. 

The government said it was awaiting the outcome of the investigation into the B737 crash in Ethiopia on Sunday, including awaiting a response from the manufacturer on complaints by passengers, airlines and global aviation authorities. 

“Regardless of the enormous safety records of this plane 737, it has caused concern in the world of aviation and you know aviation is universal, whatever affects one affects the other because aircraft will be flying in and out. So, we have issued a directive that no operator with Boeing 737 Max 8 or Max 9 should operate into and outside our airports and this is being carried out,” the government said. 

Nigeria airlines and Boeing 737 Max orders

Air Peace, Arik Airlines and a new carrier Green Africa Airways are some Nigerian airlines that have placed orders for the B737 Max but the government says it will take two years before their delivery by which time investigations would have been concluded on the aircraft, after being downed by several countries in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash which killed all 149 passengers and eight crew members onboard. 

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“Regarding Air Peace and Arik orders, whether those orders were confirmed or intent, it is to our knowledge in the ministry that they won’t be in the country until the next two years or so. And this is enough period to sort out whatever problem it is with that plane. The world of aviation will not be sleeping just as we in Nigeria will not be sleeping.” Sirika said.

Air Peace, Nigeria’s largest domestic carrier had ordered ten B737 Max while a startup airline, Green Africa Airways had in December ordered 100 B737 Maxs in a total deal worth $11.7 billion, the largest aircraft agreement from Africa in a decade. 

“Today is a historic day for the Nigerian and African aviation industry,” said Babawande Afolabi, Founder & CEO, Green Africa Airways at the signing. 

“This landmark deal takes us much closer to our long-held dream of building a world-class airline that will unlock a new realm of positive possibilities for millions of customers. Broadly speaking, this deal is a bold symbol of the dynamism, resilience and soaring entrepreneurial drive of the next generation of Nigerians and Africans,” Afolabi said. 

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Green Africa Airways, a new value airline based in  Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos aims to offer safe, quality and affordable air travel. The new airline has received its Air Transport License from the Nigerian government and is anchored by a group of senior industry leaders led by Tom Horton, former Chairman and CEO of American Airlines, William Shaw, Founder and former CEO of VivaColombia and Virasb Vahidi, former CCO of American Airlines.

Government mourns citizens involved 

“I mourn the passing of Ambassador Abiodun Bashua and Professor Pius Adesanmi in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash which occurred yesterday. Distinguished Nigerians who did the nation proud in their professional endeavors.” President Muhammadu Buhari had tweeted concerning the death of two Nigerians in the Ethiopian Airlines disaster. 

But Air Peace is under pressure by its passengers to stand down the deal with Boeing for the aircrafts, as many of them said they would not fly them when delivered. Air Peace clarified that it had yet to take delivery of the aircraft and that passengers should be calm as the global aviation community awaits an inquest into the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the aircraft brand.

China, Morocco, Singapore and many others have joined Ethiopia in grounding the B737 Max series from Boeing with the United States, which initially refused to join, suspending the aircraft on Wednesday. A decision that has seen Boeing shares on the market heading south.

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“The planes are grounded effective immediately,” US President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House, following mounting international and political pressure for the United States to follow the lead of multiple countries in pulling the best-selling planes, from the air.

“Hopefully they will come up with an answer but until they do, the planes are grounded,” Trump said of Boeing.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) issued an emergency order shortly after. The US regulator said “new evidence” gathered at the site of the deadly crash in Ethiopia as well as satellite data prompted Wednesday’s decision to suspend flights of all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

“The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today… together with newly refined satellite data,” the FAA said on Twitter.

The grounding “will remain in effect pending further examination.”


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