BUDDING Nigerian domestic airline Air Peace has placed a firm order for a Boeing 737 Max aircraft following the recent recertified of the plane to resume flying as part of an ambitious plan to expand its operations post-lockdown.
In March 2019, the 737 Max was grounded worldwide after a recurring failure in its Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System caused two fatal accidents. However, On November 18, 2020, the US Federal Aviation Authority cleared the Max to return to service once necessary design modifications had been made.
In January this year, Transport Canada and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency both cleared the Max subject to additional requirements after Boeing settled to pay over $2.5bn in compensation. Currently, Nigeria’s fastest-growing airline, Air Peace is stepped up its presence in the international aviation industry, announcing flights to eight new destinations in December and is now expanding its fleet to deal with this.
Allen Onyema, the Air Peace chairman, said that foreign exchange scarcity was inhibiting the ability of the airlines to meet their business obligations. He added that Air Peace planned to replace the older aircraft in its fleet, made largely of B737 classics with the Boeing 737 Max and the Embraer E195-E2 in addition to the eight E145s, which provides service to low passenger traffic airports.
According to Mr Onyema, about 20 Air Peace aircraft were in maintenance facilities overseas and some of them were expected to start coming back soon. He added that what delayed the delivery of the aircraft was because of the Covid-19 lockdown, which forced maintenance facilities to stay off work.
Mr Onyema said: “We have not been able to discharge our obligations to foreign maintenance organisations because you need dollars to give them. We have the naira but to get dollars is difficult.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria has been trying for us and we understand the plight that it is not the fault of the government but we are pleading that we should be able to access forex more easily.” He added that the planes undergoing maintenance abroad will be coming in by June.
In December 2020, Air Peace began flying to Kingston in Jamaica as well as Accra, Banjul, Freetown, Dakar, Monrovia, Dubai and Johannesburg. Not only is the airline increasing the number of destinations it is flying to but it is also expanding the size of its fleet.
Highly praised for its role during the height of the coronavirus pandemic when it successfully evacuated Nigerian citizens from around the world, Air Peace has been touted as a future national carrier. During the height of the pandemic, Air Peace was denied the right to land at London’s Heathrow Airport where it had come to evacuate Nigerians and many aviation industry watchers believe that the airline should react to the development by establishing itself as a true international player.