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FEC approves N2bn for local aircraft assembly in Zaria 

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From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has approved the sum of N2.29 billion for the assembling of Hungarian Magnus light aircraft at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Kaduna State. 

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, explained that the renewed demand for the “spin recovery aircraft” necessitated the production of the light aircraft which he said is durable for the training of military and civilian pilots.

He explained  that the first set of the assembled aircraft is expected to fly within the last four months of the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

He disclosed that his ministry presented two memoranda bordering on the local assemblage of Magnus aircraft and review of the cost of Instrument Landing System (ILS) in three airports by additional N546.1 billion.

According to Sirika: “We had two memoranda in Council. The first one is the procurement and assemblage of Magnus Centennial aircraft and stimulator in Zaria.

“So I’m happy to announce today is the reality. We will indeed assemble the Magnus aircraft and will continue to do so and not too distant future by God’s grace, the industry of civilization will begin to manufacture right here in the country aircraft. But why beginning by assembling these training aircraft, it will happen very soon.

“So, the memoranda has been passed in Council. The manufacturer of the airplane is based in Hungary, and has local company called ingenious to be done in Zaria. And the total contract sum is N2,296,897,404 with the completion period of 18 months.

“I need to explain this airplane. So the world of civil aviation, stopped in its Training Program. The spin and spin recovery, spin literally means to spin something in an unusual altitude that our club go through. And therefore students are taught to identify when they get into spin situation, and how to recover out of the situation before it becomes a disaster.

“We were all trained like that as pilots. But because airplanes become more and more technologically advanced, the need for spin and spin recovery didn’t arise, because they’re becoming more and more sophisticated. But again, they all realize that we still get into spin or there is a need for this skill to be developed for recovery out of spin situation.

“So most of manufacturers stopped producing trainers for that purpose. And so there are not many people now that do that manufacture.

“And the company in Messrs Maganus, realized that gap started to produce airplanes that can get into spin and out of it, so that students can be trained on that. And because of our maximum attention to safety, we believe that this should come back into training in Nigeria, even the United States of America who, at some point stopped now are back to training students on this spinner spin recovery.

“So this airplane is fully aerobotic, goes into aerobatics. And I think the Nigerian Air Force and the Air Force around the region will be interested and excited by this development, we are taking the lead in civil aviation . It is our intention to produce them here, assemble them here in policy when in the future, you know, sell them out to where we’re interested around the world.

“So this will happen and I think the first one or two aircraft will happen, the assemblage here in Nigeria and to fly them within the remaining four months that we have as a government. So it’s another item that is ticked on our plate, and to which we remain grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari and his government”.

The Minister also disclosed that FEC also approved the memorandum that revised the estimated total cost and augmentation, contract for procurement and installation of Instrument Landing System (ILS) in three airports namely Port Harcourt International Airport, Kano International Airport, and Katsina Airport.

He explained that the contract which was awarded earlier had to be reviewed due to fluctuations in foreign exchange.

His words: “And of course, the time it took and cost of items have increased tremendously.  That’s why we’re back in Council, revising it with an additional N546,109,336. 33 with 7.5 percent VAT, an additional completion period for nine months for this airport.

“So this particular equipment, like we say, in aviation, most of the things that we do, I think that passengers don’t see, passengers are worried about the air conditioning system, the conveyor belt and the toilets within our facility within the terminal buildings.

“However, this particular ILS equipment, it tells you to shoot an approach into an airport, a land with zero visibility. If you have category 3C landing system, and we’re having them all around the country. They will be in most of the airports in Nigeria.

“But again, like I said, here, also this platform that government is making efforts to put in all of the airports, but then the airlines will have to put them on equipment, interpret our own in their own aircraft, and also train their pilots.

“So the airline itself will have to put the equipment in their aircraft and train their pilots to fly this facility that has been provided. These are all matters of safety, which is our primary concern in civilization under President Muhammadu Buhari”.

Asked why the choice of Zaria as the assembling base, Sirika said the existing college of aviation provides a ready facility which will save the cost of building another.

He added that situating the plant in Zaria further expands the capacity of Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) as a federal government agency.

The Minister reveled that Council approved N546.11 million for the procurement and installation of Category 3 C landing system in 15 airports nationwide.

However, installation will begin from the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and the Katsina Airport.

The Category 3C landing system, he explained, enables pilots to land in zero-visibility conditions.

Asked about the current state of the Nigeria Air project, Sirika, declined to give detailed comments on the issue, saying it is subjudice.

However, he said there is “nothing stopping the takeoff of Nigeria Air.”

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