NG Eagle Begins Flight Operations with Leased Aircraft

A new start-up, NG Eagle has been allowed to start flight operations with a leased aircraft, apparently against Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Regulation 2006 (as amended), it was learnt yesterday.

The airline conducted a flight by 12 mid-day on Sunday, December 10, 2023 with Flight No. 2N 903, from Lagos to Abuja.

But a management staff of the airline, Roland Ahmed defended the airline and explained to THISDAY that the airline still had three Boeing 737 NG aircraft registered in Nigeria and handed over to NG Eagle by Super Bravo Limited, which were used for flight demonstration that earned the airline an Air Operator Certificate (AOC).

Ahmed explained that it had ‘Part G’ approval, which allowed the airline to use leased aircraft, adding that the existing Boeing 737 NG aircraft were AOG (aircraft on ground) and needed to be maintained before they would fly again.

Ahmed who confirmed that the airline operated its first schedule service on Sunday, December 10, 2023, said: “We are free to use leased aircraft because we carried out demonstration flight with Nigerian registered aircraft, which were still in our fleet, but currently off spec and due for maintenance.

“The two Airbus A320 we leased are in addition to our existing three Boeing B737NG that we used for demonstration. We are using leased aircraft because we already have Part G approval.”

But THISDAY checks revealed that the three Boeing 737NG were no more owned by the airline, according to the decision of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on March 31, 2023, which ordered that the three aircraft should be returned to Arik Air in the case of Johnson Arumemi Ikhide, Mary Arumemi Ikhide vs Kamil Alaba Omokide and others.

NG Eagle was initially owned by Asset Management Corporation (AMCON), which was unable to obtain AOC after carrying out demonstration flight with the said Boeing 737 NG aircraft, so AMCON sold the process through a company it registered to take over Arik Air assets, known as Super Bravo Limited.

Under the new buyer, the airline was able to obtain AOC one year after it carried out demonstration flight and when the aircraft were down for maintenance, the airline leased two Airbus A320 aircraft.

The NCAA in a letter dated December 7, 2023 with reference number, NCAA/DOLT/NGE/Vol. 1/33523 and addressed to the Accountable Manager, NG Eagle, had approved the leasing of the two Airbus A320.

When contacted to comment on the issues concerning NG Eagle, the acting Director-General of NCAA, Captain Ibrahim Danbazau told THISDAY: “I cannot talk to you because you are a press man. If you can go to the DG…”

The DG of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, THISDAY learnt, was out of the country and had handed over to Danbazau who was in acting capacity.

Also, in line with the decision of the court, Femi Falana (SAN) through his Chamber, Falana and Falana wrote a letter to NCAA on October 3, 2023, concerning the order of the court on assets of Arik Air.

But THISDAY investigations revealed a new twist, which indicated that the three aforementioned aircraft were initially leased to Aero Contractors by Super Bravo Limited and the leasing was not vacated before the aircraft were handed over to NG Eagle after it obtained its AOC under a new company.

A document made available to THISDAY by inside sources from Super Bravo Limited, dated February 7, 2022, stated, “We write in respect of the above-mentioned wherein we propose the lease of the three Boeing 737 NG aircraft belonging to Super Bravo Limited to Aero Contractors of Nigeria Company Limited.

“Please be informed that Super Bravo Limited and NG Eagle Limited had signed a lease agreement in respect of the three Boeing 737 NG aircraft for the purpose of the issuance of the AOC to NG Eagle Limited.

“However, the three 737 NG aircraft have been on ground since February 2021 and no revenue had been generated to the benefit of Super Bravo as NG Eagle was yet to obtain its AOC and commence operation.

“To ameliorate our position, Super Bravo has decided to put the lease arrangement with NG Eagle in abeyance and lease its aircraft to Aero Contractors of Nigeria Company Limited pending the issuance of the NG Eagle’s AOC,” it said.

The aircraft were Boeing 737-800 NG, registration mark, 5N-BXV, serial number 35638, year of manufacture, 2009; Boeing 737-700, 5N-BXW, 33944, manufactured 2008; Boeing 737-700 and 5N-BXX, 34761.

Until Super Bravo sold the airline process to the company that bought NG Eagle, the lease agreement had subsisted and there was no written document that terminated the leasing deal, THISDAY gathered.

A surprised Aero insider told THISDAY: “A new airline has started flight operations with leased aircraft with foreign registration. This is the first time where a start-up airline with leased aircraft is put on Part G.

“First time an airline conducted a demonstration flight and it was given AOC one year after while operating a leased aircraft that is not the aircraft type it used for the demonstration flight, which is Airbus 320. See how low we have gone.

“There are some waivers you will do, it will weaken the regulator and this is one of them. It goes to show there is interest in the airline. We know the rigours airlines go through to get their AOC. They carry out rigorous demonstration flight and get their AOC in 90 days if they passed. We hope the minister will look at this. But if he intervenes, it will be taken that he is eroding NCAA autonomy,” the source said.

But when contacted, the Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, told THISDAY that he would not comment on the issue.