ONLY five of Nigeria’s 23 airlines have completed and passed the global safety certification of the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) that qualifies them to be among the world’s best aviation operators.
Known as IATA Operational Safety Audit (Iosa) the programme is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. Iosa audits create a standard that is comparable on a world-wide basis, enabling and maximising the joint use of audit reports.
Iosa uses stringent audit principles that sees airlines evaluated every two years and at the moment, Air Peace, Allied Air, Arik Air, Azman Air and Overland Airways are the only airlines in Nigeria to be certified. Their certification will expire later this year after which they will go through another round of assessment.
Air Peace’s certification will expire on December 2, while that of Allied Air will expire on August 14, with that of Azman Air expiring on September 13 and Overland Airways’ certification expiring on October 25. IATA said Arik’s re-evaluation could not be conducted in 2020 due to Covid-19, so the airline will remain on the registry until April this year.
In 2018, Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Allied Air, and Cargo services, Overland Airways, Medview, Dana Air and Air Peace were certified but Dana Air, Medview and Aero Contractors have since dropped off the list after their certification expired. Registering for Iosa certification and auditing is not mandatory and an airline that does not have certification may have chosen not to participate, or failed the audit.
Small budget and regional airlines often do not do the Iosa audit mainly because of the cost and the expense required to implement the recommended changes. According to a recent IATA report, Iosa certified airlines had a crash rate three times less than airlines not on the registry.
Nigeria’s airlines that achieved the Iosa are some of the country’s most active. Ironically, one of them, Azman Air, recently came under local regulatory sanctions over safety concerns after the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) suspended it two weeks ago, saying its aircraft had been involved in multiple incidents that could have serious consequences if not addressed.
NCAA said its inspectors found an Azman Air maintenance engineer carrying out replacement of a landing gear wheel of a Boeing 737-500 without referring to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual. Also, it said in February, a component of an Azman’s aircraft was observed to have fallen off during takeoff and despite being notified by the air traffic control, the pilot continued the flight to Lagos.
Upon arrival, the pilot failed to make entry in the aircraft technical logbook. Five days later, the same aircraft suffered burst tyres during landing, with resultant severe damage to the aircraft engine and fuselage.
The Accident Investigation Bureau is currently investigating the incident. Azman Air denied an earlier statement attributed to the company accusing the regulator of unprofessionalism and taking a hasty decision.