by Akan Ido
It has been revealed that about N9.08bn is being spent annually to maintain the Nigerian Presidential Air Fleet.
Reports say the Presidential Air Fleet is the third largest fleet of aircraft in the country with a total of 10 aircraft. Only Arik Air and Aero Contractors have more aircraft in its fleet.
According to available records, Aero Contractors has 14 aircraft while Arik Air has 23 in its fleet.
The PAF reportedly include two Falcon 7X jets, two Falcon 900 jets, Gulfstream 550, one Boeing 737 BBJ (Nigerian Air Force 001 or Eagle One), and Gulfstream IVSP.
Others are one Gulfstream V, Cessna Citation 2 aircraft and Hawker Siddley 125-800 jet.
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Cost of running fleet
According to a former Minister of Information, Professor, Dora Akunyili, each of the two Falcon 7X jets purchased in 2010 cost $51.1m, while the Gulfstream 550 costs $53.3m.
The factory price of other aircraft in the fleet could not be easily obtained online. However, airline CEOs put the average price of Falcon 900 at $35m, Gulfstream IVSP as $40m, Gulfstream V at $45m, Boeing 737 BBJ at $58m, Cessna Citation is $7m and Hawker Siddley 125-800 at $15m.
This brings a combined estimated value of Nigeria’s PAF to $390.5m (N60.53bn).
According to airline chief executives and industry experts, airlines spend between 15 and 20 per cent of the cost of an aircraft on its operation yearly. They say that averagely, a little less than one-fifth of the cost of the plane is spent every year on insurance, flight and cabin crew, maintenance, fuelling, catering and training.
Going by the fact that at least 15 per cent of this amount is spent annually on operating the PAF, it means about $58.57m (N9.08bn ) is spent annually on running the planes .
Nigeria happens to be one of few countries of the world with a large PAF.
Other countries’ fleets
Most major countries in Europe and Asia maintain mostly two aircraft in their Presidential Air Fleet, according to Wikipedia.
According to the website, Japan maintains only two Boeing 747-400 planes in its Presidential Air Fleet.
The two aircraft, mostly for the Prime Minister, the Emperor, Empress and other members of the Imperial Family, is operated by the Japan Air Self-Defence Force.
The aircraft were constructed at the Boeing factory at the same time as the United States’ Air Force One. Both Japanese aircraft were delivered in 1990.
Wikipedia also confirms that the Netherlands government operates only two aircraft, one Fokker 70 and one Gulfstream IV, as a means of transport for the Dutch Royal family and government officials, such as the prime minister and other ministers.
They are also used also to attend international conferences, and also for private trips by the Queen and the Prince of Orange.
For long haul trips the Royal Dutch Airline is used. Often the upper deck of a Boeing 747 is used.
The Queen of England and Prime Minister David Cameron often go on British Airways chartered flights for long trips. UK’s Cameron was recently criticized by the UK media for chartering a foreign plane instead of a British’s.
According to Wikipedia, The Royal Squadron of the Royal Air Force maintains a fleet of Agusta A109 helicopters, BAE-125 mid-sized business jet and BAE-146 regional airliner to support short travel by the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and senior members of the British Government.
Countries like Ghana, Algeria and a host of others in Europe maintain only one aircraft in their PAF.
The latest revelation on Nigeria’s PAF size is coming amid dearth of aircraft among domestic airlines, which lack adequate finance to buy more planes to meet up with the soaring domestic passenger capacity.
Apart from Arik Air and Aero, each of the remaining domestic airlines does not possess even half of the number of aircraft in the PAF, according to findings by our correspondent.
IRS Airlines has only four operational aircraft in its fleet; Dana Air has four aircraft; FirstNation, three aircraft; and Medview Airlines, two aircraft; figures obtained from the industry revealed.
In recent months, domestic travellers have been scrambling to get air tickets due to lack of capacity on the part of the other local airlines, after the suspension of operations by Dana Air, Air Nigeria and FirstNation Airlines respectively.
Apart from Arik and Aero, most of the domestic airlines fell behind the PAF in terms of the number of aircraft in their fleet.
These include Air Nigeria, Dana Air, IRS Airlines, FirstNation Airlines, Medview Airlines, Overland Airways and Associated Airlines.
Airline CEOs opinions
Some airline CEOs, who pleaded anonymity, raised concerns over the economic sense behind the large mix of brands of aircraft in the President Air Fleet.
They said although the fleet size was large, the cost of operation would have been cheaper if they had maintained only two brands, instead of more.
According to them, the various brands of aircraft in the fleet will cost the Presidency more in terms of money being spent on aircraft maintenance, insurance, engineers, flight and cabin crew among others.
“If you look at the Presidential Fleet, you have at least five different brands of aircraft manufacturers. In that single Presidential Fleet, you have Boeing, Falcons, Gulfstream, Hawker and Cessna: that is not less than four different brands from various countries. I don’t know the economic sense in this. The fleet needs to be streamlined from five to just two brands. The aircraft can’t see each other. It means each of those planes will have its own flight crew, cabin crew, engineers, dispatchers etc. It is a mismatch. The Presidency will be spending more to keep all of them in the skies. Going by airline economics, you spend less when you focus on a single brand or at most two. You will get support from the manufacturers and then you spend less,” the CEO of a domestic airline, who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, told our correspondent.
“Look at IRS, it has only one brand, all its four planes are all from Fokker; look at First Nation, it has only Airbus. All its three planes are all Airbus A319. Look at Dana, all its four planes are all Boeing MD-83s. Look at Aero, It has only Boeing and Bombardier planes, just two brands. That is how to run a fleet of aircraft with economic sense. You don’t need more than two. Globally, it is the same thing. South West Airlines in USA has hundreds of planes and they are all from one single brand, Boeing. I think they need to streamline the fleet to just two brands to minimise the cost of running them. By that, there will be a reduction in the number of the crews they will be using to fly them” the CEO added.
Spokesman for the President, Mr. Reuben Abati, could not be reached for comments on the PAF. Telephone calls made to his telephone line was not picked, while a text message sent was not also replied.
According to the NAF’s website, PAF’s current staff strength consists of 47 NAF officers, 173 airmen/airwomen and 96 civilian staff, both technical and administrative.
“The operational headquarters of the Fleet is located at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, while the administrative personnel are at the Federal Secretariat. The fleet has a liaison office at the Presidential Villa. Flight operations, training, aircraft maintenance and general running of the fleet are funded by the Presidency,” according to the website.