Tuesday, July 17, 2012

► NIGERIA: Arik Air announces Winter changes to New York; suffers two incidents in 3 hours.

Arik AirNigerian carrier Arik Air (W3) has announced changes to its Winter 2012 Lagos, Nigeria - New York route effective 29 October 2012. The route is presently served with an Airbus A340-500 wet leased from HiFly Air Transport.

Arik Air: Lagos, Nigeria - New York, USA
-Effective 29 October 2012
  • W3107 LOS 2355 0630+1 JFK A345 | 135
  • W3108 JFK 1200 0430+1 LOS A345 | 246
Arik Air A340
Arik Air A340-500 in Lisbon (AndreCosta)
"The airline quoted Chris Ndulue, Arik Air Managing Director and Executive Vice President, as saying, “With increasing demand for services between the west coast of Africa and the USA, we felt it necessary to revise our existing schedule to accommodate this demand. Customers can now easily connect on to our domestic and regional services with our arrival time in the US, affording passengers the chance to rest overnight and be in their final destination for the business day ahead.
“Passengers transferring domestically can utilize the shuttle bus between the domestic and international terminal and very soon our passengers will be able to fly out of a brand new GAT in Lagos which will offer seamless connections throughout the network. The Lagos-New York, JFK service is an integral route in the network and the amended schedule will serve to offer not only more convenience for customers but choice as well.”"

Arik Air's continued robust growth is in stark contrast to its competitor Air Nigeria (VK) which has been lurching from one crisis to the next, though this is not to say that Arik Air hasn't had its own share of drama. On Saturday two Arik Air Boeing 737s were involved in incidents just hours apart of each other. 

First, a taxiing Arik Air B737-700 (5N-MJI) lost part of its left winglet after it brushed the wing of a parked Nigerian Air Force C130 Hercules aircraft at Jos Airport. 

Arik Air maintained that ageing infrastructure at the airport was to blame:

"The markings on the tarmac of the Jos Airport are old markings which did not take into cognizance the use of bigger aircraft like Boeing 737-700 or 737-800 which we have in our fleet and are capable of misleading pilots during taxing. We hope this incident will make FAAN to re-do those markings."

Whilst the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) found to the contrary:

Arik Air 737
Arik Air 737 '5N-MJI' (raymond)
"The facts of the incident are that on Saturday July 14, 2012, at 1342hrs, the FAAN Marshaller on duty cleared Arik Air B737 – 5N-MJI to taxi out from the apron through Link 2 to runway 28. However, in defiance of the Marshaller’s signal, the Captain of the Arik flight opted for Link 1 facing the direction where a NAF aircraft was parked. As the pilot taxied via his opted route, the tip of the left wing of the Arik aircraft hit the left wing of NAF 917 with a loud noise causing fuel spillage from the NAF C-130, with the Arik’s left wing stuck to the left wing of the C-130.
It is also reported that Arik claimed that the markings on the Apron in Jos did not take into cognisance the use of bigger aircraft like Boeing 737-700 or 737-800. For the avoidance of doubt, nothing could be father from the truth.The Boeing 737 in whatever variance is a Class C Aeroplane. All Class C aircraft are designed to fit into the parameters of Class C.
The apron markings in Jos are Class C compliant. In every airport, especially in an airport with very limited aircraft parking stands such as that of Jos, there are times when different sized aircraft are parked on the Apron. At such times, measures are taken to route incoming and outgoing aircraft around the obstacle, which in this case was the C130. But the Captain of the Arik Air B737 refused to obey the Marshaller's signal.''

Then secondly, another Boeing 737 Arik Air Flight W3 232, heading to Abuja from Enugu, skidded off the runway on arrival in Abuja's Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport due to turbulence despite the pilot having been warned vociferously by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority about the precarious weather situation prior to departure.
"The Guardian learnt that the Arik aircraft, a Boeing 737-700 from Enugu to Abuja, scheduled to depart Enugu at about 10am, was delayed until 11:40am due to reports of approaching bad weather in Abuja.
According to an eyewitness, in a rush to get to Abuja before the start of the rains, the captain allegedly ignored all warnings and “took the aircraft and passengers through an extremely turbulent flight.”
A passenger on the fight said: “People clung on to their seats for dear life with shouts and cries of ‘Jesus’”. On landing at Abuja, the plane almost skidded off the runway and the passengers had to wait in the aircraft for 30 minutes before disembarking due to the downpour."

The incidents come as there are rising demands by both the Nigerian public and players in the Nigerian aviation community for there to be greater transparency in the safety measures in place and enforced, especially with regards to infrastructure and airworthiness.