Escalating aircraft maintenance costs abroad are forcing Dana Air (9J, Lagos) to look into establishing its own maintenance repair overhaul (MRO) facility in Nigeria, says Chief Operating Officer Obi Mbanuzuo.

He told The Authority newspaper local aircraft maintenance would cut domestic airlines’ operating cost by 50%, due to savings on ferrying aircraft abroad and the extra manpower needed to do so.

According to Mbanuzo, Nigeria has the technical expertise to carry out heavy maintenance checks. “We don’t have the MRO at present, but we have the knowledge and capability to do it, which is why we now work towards establishing our own MRO.”

“Right now, we fly our aircraft abroad for checks. Just flying the aircraft abroad one way costs about USD15,000, and flight charges may be about USD2,000, and the airplane goes there for a month, six weeks, or eight weeks in some cases. Then the technician abroad earns four to five times what somebody in Nigeria will earn, so manpower cost is the main thing that makes the charge very high,” he explained.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module and Flightradar24 ADS-B data, one of Dana Air's two B737-300 leased from Aerolux - 5N-DNA (msn 28400) - is currently in maintenance with Atitech at Naples Capodichino. The airline's fleet consists of two B737-300s, one MD-82 stored at Lagos; and three active MD-83s.

Dana Air is not the first Nigerian airline to consider setting up its own MRO facility to avoid costly maintenance abroad. Air Peace (P4, Lagos) earlier this year oulined long-term plans in this regard but cited high operating costs and lack of adequate technical manpower as some of the challenges impeding a local maintenance operation. Nigerian carriers also lack the foreign currency to pay for heavy MRO services abroad. A home-based heavy maintenance facility would mean airlines would be able to pay in local currency. Air Peace currently has at least four aircraft on maintenance abroad, including two B737-300s at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion and Amman Queen Alia respectively; one B777-200(ER) in Cairo, and two B777-300s at Cairo International and Addis Ababa each. Another three of its aircraft - a B737-300 and an EMB-145LR - are in repair in Lagos, with a B737-500 being repaired at Port Harcourt Omagwa, ch-aviation fleets advanced data shows.

As things stand, Aero Contractors (N2, Lagos) has an MRO facility that can maintain B737 Classics and turboprops like DHC-8-Q400s and DHC-8-Q300s.