WAR OF WORDS OVER USE OF POLICE HELICOPTER FOR ILLEGAL CHARTER FLIGHTS

•NCAA to investigate allegation 
•Police decline comment

Helicopter operators are kicking over the use of Police choppers for charter flights without the required permit for such operations.

Under the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) regulations, helicopters in the fleet of the Nigeria Police Air Wing are not authorized to engage in “reward and hire”, which in aviation parlance is a charter operation.

However, sources close to scheduled operators claim  that the involvement of Police Air Wing Helicopters in hire and reward operations is not jeopardizing the interest of commercial operators which have proper permit, licenses and approvals  to carry out charter flights.

They say the involvement of the Police Air Wing Helicopters is undercutting their market share.

According to them, the illegal operations have brought down the cost of hiring to Bell Helicopters to a ridiculous 20 per cent the value of such flights.

They fear that such illegal operations by the Police Air Wing could push scheduled operators out of business if not checked.

Investigations revealed that helicopter charter shuttles, for which commercial operators charge $105,000 .00 are being carried out by the Police Air Wing for a paltry $ 30,000.00.

The operators complained to the industry regulator Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to probe alleged infractions by the Police Air Wing.

Police Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, a Deputy Commissioner of Police failed to respond to the allegation. Series of phone calls and short message services (SMS) and electronic mail messages sent to him on the matter did not yield any response.

A source close to commercial helicopter operators said though helicopters in the Police Air Wing are meant for government services under the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, they are being used illegally for commercial services.

The source said: “The helicopters in the fleet of the Nigeria Police Air Wing are meant for government services and under the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations can only operate for the services of Nigeria.

“They cannot operate as a scheduled, non scheduled private operator with airline operating permit or air transport license and air operators’ certificate, but sole with special permit under civil aviation. Instead the Police Air Wing is using their helicopter to conduct commercial charters without the required insurance or permit. This is dangerous as it may be jeopardizing the interest of all commercial operators with the proper permit. The Nigeria Police Air Wing charters the aircraft at a cost 20 per cent less of the normal schedule charters cost.

This practice apart from being unlawful is dangerous, no insurance carrying civil customers for reward.

They operated these illegal charters between Kaduna to Abuja last year during the Nnamdi Azikwe international Airport renovation, now Gombe. No wonder they could not perform any security patrol that the equipment were to be used for.

The police just did a job for the Nigerian Army at Biu, laying foundation of  Defence University using  two  Bell 412 and a  Bell  429 flying from Gombe  to Biu. This job is worth $105,000.00 but was done at $30,000.00 using tax payers fuel, tax payers equipment and jeopardizing investors.”

Spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye said the regulatory body will investigate the matter if it is furnished with details of the operations.

He said though helicopter operations by the Nigeria Police Air Wing is within the regulatory purvey of the NCAA, he noted that the helicopters in the fleet of the police are not meant for hire and reward, which in aviation par lance connotes charter.

He said, “The NCAA will investigate any allegation of infraction by any operator within our scope of oversight. But, the law does not allow the helicopters on the fleet of the Police to do charter. May be they were involved in inter agency collaboration. Let the operators furnish us with the details of such operations, and the NCAA will investigate.”

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