A five-man appeal panel has upheld and reaffirmed the N33.5 million sanctions imposed on FirstNation Airways and one of its pilots by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
The General Manager, Public Relations, NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, confirmed the development in a statement issued on Sunday in Lagos.
Adurogboye said the panel had concluded its sitting and submitted its report to the regulatory authority.
He said FirstNation Airways had earlier filed an appeal following a Letter of Sanction written to the airline on January 23.
He said: “It will be recalled that violations were detected during a ramp inspection on the airline’s aircraft, Airbus A319 with registration mark 5N-FNE, on November 8, 2016, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
“After the exercise, it was discovered that the Pilot-in-Command was not in possession of a current medical certificate.
“In addition, the airline similarly rostered the pilot to carry out operational flights when obviously his medical certificate had expired.
“Therefore, the airline and the pilot violated Parts 22.214.171.124 (a), 126.96.36.199 (1), 188.8.131.52 (a) (1) and 184.108.40.206(a) (24) of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations 2015.
“Consequently, in accordance with IS 1.3.3. (1)(14) of the Nig.CARs, 2015, the airline and pilot were fined N32 million and N1.5 million being moderate civil penalty for the violation.”
According to Adurogboye, the airline, however, swiftly filed an appeal to the NCAA in disagreement with the reported violations and sanctions.
He said the regulatory authority in its responsiveness and quest to be just and fair to all, constituted an appeal committee to hear the airline’s appeal.
Adurogboye said the five-man appeal panel had three airline operators, a private legal luminary and NCAA officials as observers.
He added that FirstNation Airways was represented by four lawyers, the pilot and three management staff.
Adurogboye said: “After four days of sitting, submissions and deliberations, the panel upheld and reiterated the applicable sanctions meted out to the airline and its pilot.
“It arrived at the following conclusions in agreement with the NCAA findings prelude to the application of sanctions.
“The ATRL 1874 License of the Pilot in Command of FirstNation Airways had expired on the Nov. 2, 2016. The PIC was not in possession of the license during the ramp inspection on November 8, 2016.
“The PIC did not have a valid license and was not properly certified from November 2 to November8, 2016.The PIC operated 15 flights and the airline rostered the PIC 16 times.
“The PIC operated with expired license from November 2 to November 8, 2016 and there was indications that the airline knew the PIC did not have a valid license.’’
He said this was a very serious safety issue, therefore, the moderate sanctions applied by the NCAA were reasonable under the circumstances.
Adurogboye said the PIC’s argument that he had a valid license when he operated the flights was incorrect, as he had no valid Medical Certificate.
He said the PIC had 14 days according to NCARs to apply before the expiration of the license but however did not apply until November 3, 2016, after expiration.
He said: “The invoice was issued by NCAA on November 3, 2016.
“The pilot did not do the Cardiac Risk Assessment test mandatory for his 62 years age even after he was informed by NCAA the Authorised Aviation Medical Examiner.
“He did the medical assessment eventually. The CRA report was dated November 7, 2016 and was sent to the NCAA on November 8, 2016.
“Therefore, the accusation of delay and inefficiency by the authority is wrong and unfounded. The PIC and the airline did not follow laid down procedure.
“NCAA received the medical report same day, reviewed it and issued the Medical Certificate same day on November 8, 2016.”
He said the panel consequently dismissed all grounds of the appeal and upheld the NCAAs Letters of Sanctions.
Adurogboye said the NCAA would continue to provide level playing field to all airline operators.
He added: “However, failure to adhere to safety regulations shall attract applicable sanctions.”