The Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria has revealed that it spent N5bn on the maintenance of two redundant helicopters for about 10 years.

Rector of NCAT, Captain Akali Modibo, who made this disclosure while fielding questions from the media at the just concluded Aviation Africa Summit and Exhibition held in Abuja recently, said it cost the institution N500m annually to service those helicopters, which were eventually auctioned by the Federal Government.

He debunked the news that made rounds recently that the two helicopters were missing from the College while pointing out that aeroplanes do not go missing but take off and land.

According to him, because the helicopters have to be serviceable, the institution embarked on maintenance of the two for about 10 years which was a waste because they were neither used for training nor to source any revenue.

He explained, “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 many questions about where it is coming from and going into.

“The two helicopters were acquired by the Federal Government about 12 to 13 years ago during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan. It was purchased for the purpose of training pilots, but those kinds of helicopters, cannot be them for the initial training of pilots. And what the college does is basic training.

“We have never trained anybody on helicopters at the college. Probably the past government did not seek advice from NCAT and when the government wanted to purchase helicopters for its agencies, it decided to include NCAT.”

According to Modibo, the government acquired 10 helicopters for the Nigeria Police, bought for the Nigeria Customs Service, the National Emergency Management Agency and others, adding that it purchased two Bell 206 helicopters for NCAT.

“If the government had involved NCAT, we would have told them the type of aircraft we can use for training, which is piston engine helicopters. You cannot use Bell 206 for training. Nowhere in the world is this helicopter type used for training. It is like using a Boeing 737 aircraft to teach someone how to become a pilot. You do not do that.

“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 auction, which is the approved process for selling government property,” he explained.

He disclosed that the process for the auctioning of helicopters started in 2019 when the college filed all the papers and requested approval and evaluation from the Ministry.

The NCAT boss remarked, “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 had 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 10 years, we have spent about N5bn in maintaining the two helicopters, yet we don’t use them for training or to source any revenue from it. 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.”

He added that the management of NCAT talked to the ministry and the minister approved the sales of the helicopters.

“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 that came over and the helicopters were auctioned. At the end of the day, the helicopters were sold to two different companies,” Modibo noted.

He disclosed that the helicopters were eventually auctioned at about $600,000 each but were yet to be replaced because due process had to be followed.

“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 than R22. The R44 has four seats and the R22 has two seats for training,” he explained.

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