Capt. Alkali Modibbo, the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria in this interview with Charles Ayodele, spoke on the recent alleged missing two helicopters from the college, the non-use of the Boeing 737 simulator aircraft six years after the acquisition and more:
NewsTimes: Can you shed more light on the two missing Bell 206 helicopters at the NCAT?
Capt. Alkali Modibbo: First and foremost, airplanes don’t get missing; if an aircraft takes off, it must land. In the process of landing, the aircraft would be asked so many questions.
The two helicopters were acquired by the Federal Government about 12-13 years ago during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was purchased for the purpose of training pilots, but that kind of helicopters, you can’t use them for initial training of pilots. And what the college does is basic training.
The helicopters have jet engines and with jet engines, it is so expensive that an hour training would take you your Private Pilot Licensing (PPL) on the piston engine airplanes.
So, the Ministry of Aviation decided to sell the helicopters and replace them with piston-engine helicopters.
The only way you can sell it and get your money back is by doing the auction, which is the approved process for selling government properties.
The process started in 2019, we filed all the papers and requested for approval and evaluation from the ministry.
The ministry wanted us to sell it by the bluebook rating, which is the new helicopter prices, but we cannot sell old helicopters using the bluebook pricing.
So, we had to request the ministry to look into that issue and we told them that the aircraft have been with us for more than 10 years, redundant in the hangar.
Yet, we maintain the helicopters annually to the tune of N500 million to sit in the hangar.
So, after five years, we have spent about N5 billion in maintaining the two helicopters and we don’t use it for training or to source any revenue.
It is a waste for the college because the helicopters must be serviceable all the time. For the 12 to 13 years period, none of the two helicopters reached 40 hours flying time.
So, we talked to the ministry and the minister agreed and approved the sales of the helicopters and we followed the due process.
We wrote to the Ministry, requesting the Ministry of Works to get valuers to evaluate the helicopters, which was done.
The Ministry of Works sent this to approved Federal Government auctioneers who came over and the helicopters were auctioned and at the end of the day, the helicopters were sold to two different companies.
NewsTimes: How much were the helicopters sold?
Capt. Alkali Modibbo: The helicopters were sold at about $600,000 each.
Nairematrics: Do you now have new helicopters to replace the ones sold?
Capt. Alkali Modibbo: Not yet the process of getting new airplanes is not a switch you put off and on. You need to start writing to various government agencies.
The Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development will write to the Ministry of Finance for approval and processes, which will take a while before you are able to buy the piston engine airplanes.
That money could have fetched us two Robinson R44 and two R22 helicopters, but I am sure the Federal Government will want to approve probably one R44 and one R22 because of the issue we are having with foreign exchange. R44 is a larger fashion of R22; the R44 has four seats and the R22 has two seats for training.
Nairametrcis: What is the latest information on the B737 simulator aircraft at NCAT?
Capt. Alkali Modibbo: The contract for the Boeing 737 simulator aircraft was during the period when Princess Stella Oduah was the Minister of Aviation, but the equipment was received during the period when Sen. Hadi Sirika was the Minister of Aviation.
The intention was to reduce Nigerians going abroad for such training and in the process, spend less foreign exchange.
So, the Federal Government wanted to retain the foreign exchange in the country, which is a very good thought and decision. So, the simulator was purchased and brought to Nigeria.
The only place you can put a simulator is an institution and NCAT is the only Federal Government-owned school, and this simulator was purchased by the Federal Government.
If the government put it in Lagos, there is no flying school in Lagos that is owned by the Federal Government. The containers containing all the platforms for the aircraft arrived during the Covid-19 pandemic and despite that, they were able to assemble the simulator aircraft.
By the time they finished fixing the simulator, the certification that the simulator came with from America, had expired. It expired in April, and they finished assembling it in May.
Then, we went to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for certification of the simulator and gave us the authority to use the simulator, but NCAA said they didn’t have the capacity to certify the simulator for us.
So, we needed to have any certification from any approved Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) anywhere in the world.
Since my inception, we have been going up and down; we have gone everywhere; Canada, South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). And a particular company wanted to charge us over 300,000 euros just to get a certificate on the aircraft, which was too expensive.
Then, we agreed to train NCAA and NCAT technical staff on the aircraft simulator and NCAA agreed with us. So, we got two engineers each from NCAA and NCAT and another two pilots each from the two agencies.
The pilots went for the training and the engineers are embarking on the same training by the end of this month.
In a nutshell, the simulator is about to be put into use, hopefully before the end of this year. It is not underutilized, but it has not been put to use yet.