HOW DANA AIR OPERATED WITH UNLICENSED PILOTS, UNMAINTAINED PLANES, REPORTS REVEAL

Fresh details have emerged on why the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) suspended Dana Airlines’ air transport licence (ATL) and air operator certificate (AOC) indefinitely.

NCAA had said it suspended the operating licences after “discovering that the airline was no longer in a position to meet its financial obligations and to conduct safe flight operations”.

In a document obtained by Persecondnews, the airline was suspended for many operational infractions against the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) other than a financial crisis.

The document, dated July 20, 2022, NCAA said Dana Air operated several flights on the MD 80 fleet with no licensed captain.

It also revealed that it had previously sanctioned Dana Air and its personnel for maintenance violations.

The aviation regulator said Dana Air committed several flagrant operational violations, including a captain flying aircraft with no unlicensed.

It added that the airline also conducted flights with overaged captains multiple times.

“Recall also that on 14th and 15th of July, 2022, the authority carried out an investigation into the flight operations of Dana Air during April 2022,” NCAA said.

“Dana Air operated several flights on the MD 80 fleet with no licensed captain. A captain of over 65 years of age sat on the jump seat, while a senior first officer on upgrade training sat on the left seat with a line first officer sitting on the right seat.

“A senior first officer occupied the left seat while a first officer occupied the right seat and operated Dana flight 342 LOS – PHC with aircraft 5N-DKI on 23rd of April, 2022. The flight continued from PHC – ABV and then ABV – LOS. The SF/O even went as far as signing the technical logbook.

“On the 20th of April, 2022, a re-qualifying captain, flew with a line captain, instead of a line trainer (instructor) or a check airman.

The authority said the chief pilot of Dana Air, who does not have an NCAA ‘Check Airman Authorisation’, also conducted checks.

It said flight deck crews scheduled for flights disregarded flight duty times and crew rest regulations; adding that the zapways rostering system utilised by Dana Air, although a good system, is open to manipulation by the scheduling and rostering staff.

“Dana Air’s director of flight operations, conducted checks on the aircraft even though his Check Airman authorisation had expired on the 12th of September, 2020 and, in addition, he was over 65 years of age,” it added.

“One of Dana Air’s captains who had attained 65 years of age in July 2021, operated several flights on the jump seat. Also, his Check Airman authorization expired on 23rd August 2021 but he continued to exercise the privilege.”

On the financial front, NCAA said, in June 2022, it carried out a financial and economic health audit of Dana Air for the years ended December 31, 2018 to December 31, 2021, and for the period January 2022 to May 2022.

NCAA added that its audit, in line with the provisions of section 30 (4) (b) and (r) and part 18.10.1 of the Nig.CARs found that Dana Air could not meet current obligations as they fall due without resorting to more borrowings/debts, as the current liabilities far exceed the current assets”.

It said the audit also revealed that the shareholders’ fund (equity) has been in the negative since 2018, and it would take Dana Air several years of operation for retained earnings to erase the negative equity.

According to the regulator, the audit also found that the debt to capital ratio is negative, adding Dana Air is financing operations through debts.

It added that the airline pays staff salaries in batches, “between the 1st and the 10th of the succeeding month, and recently sent some employees on compulsory three months leave without pay, an indication of serious liquidity challenge in the payment of staff entitlements, with the consequence of depressed morale, low productivity and the consequent impact on safety”.

“This is a red flag on the airline’s ability to finance current obligations,” NCAA said.

“It is also noteworthy to remind you that the authority recently sanctioned Dana Air and its personnel for maintenance violations.

“While Dana Air was fined a total sum of N30,000,000.00 (Thirty Million Naira), which it had not been able to settle to date due to financial constraints, the AME Licence of Dana Air’s erstwhile Director of Maintenance was revoked for making false statements and false entries in the technical logbooks of the aircraft, 5N-SAI and 5N-JOY.

“The authority is convinced that Dana Air and its personnel deliberately violate the provisions of the Nig.CARs relate to safety and, therefore, the Airline is no longer in a position to conduct safe operations.

“The cumulative and apparent deliberate violations of the Nig.CARS, as indicated above, by DANA Air employees, especially several key post holders are indicative of a toxic corporate safety culture within the organisation.

“This, in conjunction with the report of the financial and economic health audit, is a good indication that the safety and security of Dana’s flight operations are under serious threat and can no longer be guaranteed. Consequently, the authority, pursuant to Section 35 (2), (3) (b) and (4) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, hereby suspends indefinitely, effective midnight on Wednesday 20th July 2022, the Air Transport Licence (ATL) and Air Operator Certificate (AOC) issued to Dana Airlines Limited.”

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