Senator Hadi Abubakar Sirika, Minister of Aviation. Livery of the proposed national airline on display
This is the concluding part of the chat with one of our highly revered Civil Aviation Legend, CAL, Capt Bara Allwell-Brown.
Recalled the opening part was published four weeks ago with the headline, “Finally Capt Bara Allwell-Brown unearths what killed Nigeria Airways. Today’s episode dwells on the imminent success of the yet to be established national carrier could record if, the process of its birth is sincere, transparent and of patriotic fervour which would inspire efficient management.
Enjoy the discourse;
By your estimation, do we need a national airline as a nation?
For very many reasons, I introduced several new reasons that you probably haven’t heard. In most advanced countries, there are national airlines which constitute a large percentage of their military reserved. Trooping flight of the American armed forces are not lost just to the American air force, their airlines use them because they are their airlines. Here in Nigeria, if you take statistics, if it’s not suppose to be a military secret, if you take statistics of trooping flight be it Chad, Beirut, be it in the ECOWAS region you will find that the greater number of troops were troops by the national airline. Let’s go into the reasons you are familiar with.
What are the issues about a flag carrier and the existing numerous bilateral air services agreements?.
I have mentioned it before that there is an issue of morality if the commercial agreement that has no value-added components are entered into by an airline that is not owned by the people so you are taking what should be the people’s royalty into the private pocket that is if it ever comes to happen, I’m not aware of that if it happens.
It has not happened but with the look of things it’s a possibility in the not too distant future?
I think the government of Nigeria is smarter than that. I don’t think people can easily outsmart the government but let’s go back to the need of a national airline. I think that the airline that are doing it for national flight today have no answer to the competition, so, I believe we need something that can provide an answer, there is no way you can match all of them in capacity but you could have something like an eye contact.
In what way?
Command respect. For that sake, to make the yoke a bit or a little easier. Right now, you need that airline and one is not advocating the replica of Nigeria Airways. One is advocating starting from scratch either 100 per cent equity with a divestment program in place such as government gradually reducing her equity to 60 per cent, down to 25 per cent, later reduce to maybe 5 per cent and roll back down to zero equity. That will end state ownership, removes management from government, and no more would there politically motivated appointment of leadership that looks like a 10-year-old boy placed in the driver’s seat of a Hummer Jeep.
Now, what practical observational learning, can you bring out, I mean those things that sustained the likes of Egypt Airways, Ethiopian Airline and of recent, Kenya Airways, that we don’t have, perhaps they were part of the missing links responsible for the demise of Nigeria Airways?
I know the internal workings of some of those airlines. The asset instrumental to their successes is good, skillful “Leadership”; which takes me back to our starting point, what if a 10 year old boy according to you and according to me, a 14 year old boy is given a Hummer Jeep to drive? Can you see a crash as inevitable?
Now, on the domestic terrain, are you sure that our figurative Hummer Jeep either wittingly or unwittingly has not been given to a 10 year old boy or girl to drive?
A good manager would manage any establishment well. It is not only a doctor that can manage hospital. You might have a very good surgeon who is a bank manager; that subject is one I have always avoided. Just pick rational people, a good manager picks the best of his staff, a bad manager knows it all whether he is a professional or a core professional. Some people may even argue that one does not necessarily have to be a core professional before extending an organization or institution management on him or her. I have nothing for or against that subject just bring good, experienced people in management and they will deliver.
Let’s look at our domestic operators, they have been groaning, they have been complaining, we ask what actually is their problem, they just complain, they harp on the high cost of aviation fuel but with benefit of hind sight, what do you recommend for them so that their groanings will reduce and what are your expectations from government in assuaging their grievances.
I don’t even know many of them and I don’t notice they have been in aviation but let me not contradict myself because I said the good manager will make a good manager anywhere. Let them choose the good managers. The price of aviation fuel is high, the price of maintenance is also high because a lot of maintenance factor are source with dollars. In that situation, the manager has to be very resourceful, innovative; you cannot have heroes without challenges.
Our airports, what are those things you would like to see there to make you as a traveller be proud that we are coming up?
I have three times gone to complain about the state of things at our airports. The state of toilets to an organization known as Servicom. All those are little management issues that good manager can handle. An airport is not a Five Star Hotel, I don’t expect the luxury of Sheraton Hotel in an airport but I expect to see one clean environment, reasonable climate control, the place should not be too hot for anybody or too cold for anybody. The place should be clean, the staff should be polite and things should be done efficiently. Look at the points one looks for in the arms of an airport, security must be there and must be proactive and moreover, the airport should provide facilities for a safe landing and a safe takeoff, simple.
There is this issue dubbed airport concession, airport privatization, that government should divest from airport management while the government is just to create enabling environment. Also we have heard the four international airports privatization headed by Captain Dele Ore under one former minister, but no progress report was heard about it, what is your take on our airport being concession to private firms to manage?
Well, they have not heard of Heathrow airport. if you have challenges, you respond to the challenges. What the challenges are would determine what the responses should be. But all this noise are hullabaloo. I don’t know the parameters we use for judging. For me, never mind, I’m no more as a pilot, I have also been at the business end of issues. I was a director of ventures and investment, surely the business end of marketing. And how we judge the consumer is before and after, before you criticize a policy, were the things run efficiently before and are they run efficiently after? What was the revenue before and what was the revenue thereafter?.
If you tell a man to manage a business which you were managing and your revenue profile which is a direct factor of profit in this case is say N5 million, and a man comes and he raises it to N20 million, that has been a success for you.
But if it falls from N5 million to N2 million, all other factors being equal, then it has been a failure. Has anybody ever sat down and looked at it that way. I will put the blame squarely on journalists. I have not seen any article written by any of them saying these were the conditions before and after, for that reason, we want this man to be given national honours or for that reasons, we want this man to be thrown out.
We have more than two ground handling companies, can you say we now have improved service delivery to both airlines and the passengers or do we need more ground handling companies?
The more the merrier. The ones that are not viable will fail.
But we heard so often that it’s capital intensive that you cannot just go into it, how true is that notion?
I will counter it by saying that trade with somebody’s else money. You don’t need to have billions. How many airlines can really afford to go to the market and buy an aeroplane with their own money? So trade with somebody else’s money. Yes, it is true that it is capital intensive but, it’s more knowledge-driven in actual terms than it is capital intensive.
We have severally been told 40% of the airlines operating cost goes into fueling, how can government, as the sixth-largest producer of crude oil assist in aviation fuel cost?
I won’t put it at 40 per cent but I will put it as just the high cost simple. Sure, it’s a high cost and yet you just take it and you pass it on to the customers, so that is the more reason why it should be of concern to the state because it’s a good reason for inflation. Is fuel price a supplicant subject now in Nigeria?. It needs a proper study. Some say get the refineries working, some say look at the importation cost, are they real?
However, issue of fuel it’s not just an aviation thing. It’s a national challenge. At times global. Some say, the cost of bringing fuel into Nigeria is inflated they should look into it. I really don’t have the nitty-gritty of it, if you bring down the cost of fuel in Nigeria, aviation fuel should follow suit but more often the reverse was the case.
The charter operation, what prospects are there in it? Do we have enough, do we have reasons for more?
Apart from banks and the oil industry, there is nothing cash certain in Nigeria now other than politics, and politics isn’t covet. So, you said chartered companies, something must generate the charter, there is nothing generating charter now except politics, banks and the oil industries, so the requirement is limited but chartered companies have to be innovative. I heard that a new firm is coming up, one ‘Big Boss’ to be seen in chartered air companies. So, some of the study starts from their business plan.
Is there any rationale for a national airline now?
For Nigeria’s situation right now, to further address the issue of safety which is paramount, you remember that when we had a strong national carrier, aviation was safe. Regulatory bodies can make all the laws but aviation is self-policing. Do we have that discipline in what you see now for self-policing? We need a national carrier and to have an airline that you will be proud of that can give these foreigners a run for their money on one or two routes.
Are these virtues credited to Nigerian Airways real or imaginary because its demise connotes something else, which I think borders on inefficiency?
Say what you like about Nigerian Airways, but it gave some foreign airlines a run for their money even on American routes. Think of it, it is on the record because Nigerian Airways flew to New York unfailingly; faced that route with a special crew and special aircraft and ran it meticulously for two years and Panam cave in only to later found out we just abandon the route.
Initially, it was oh! Big Panam!!, big Panam!!!, we just say spare the curse, keep this route going and if you’d used the Nigerian routes of the American routes in those days, you would agree that they rendered service. It’s still the same Nigerians but it was concentration, focus, determination, just keep it going and they could replicate that in one or two other places.
It would do our trade balance a lot of good. Look at the billions of Naira in ticket sales, capital flight, look at the expertise, we were exporting pilots to not just the third world but to even the developed nations and they were working in those places. Today, we’re importing pilots. The national airline was instrumental to those feats.
Okay, in essence, you are saying that government should take the bull by the horn, have you thought of a structural arrangement in management style to advise the government to adopt to smoothly effect gradual take-off and the gradual transfer of government equity to the public?.
Yes, I keep repeating it, you don’t need to stop building the roads, or hospitals. If you use what you have and your God-given senses because, I’ve just shown you commission agreement and partnership. You have billions of Naira controlling for nothing and you aim at only the aircraft of this time.
What should be the operational modality as a start up?
Instead of starting from domestic, you can start from international where the problem is. And when they start domestic, they should remember it is a commercial entity and not a social entity. Another question deserving clear sincere answer by those that would manage the airline is, the airline an end or a means to amend? In the West India, the airline is a means to an end because the end is tourism. Between Europe and West Africa, it is a means to an end not an end because it services commerce and industry to the end users. The airline is servicing but also an end because, airline is really commerce and trade and they should aim at profit, it’s not a social welfare thing. It’s a serious business that must generate profit.
The financial institutions we have seemed not forthcoming to assist air transport sector, what is the repellent?
It will be a pig in the pen, if you own the bank, would you give money to those airlines you see today.
So, what is to be done to make them attractive for the financial institutions to extend facilities or support to the airlines?
Have proper management. Have visible balance sheet. Be opened. You don’t go and pick your mother’s cousin to come and sell ticket because she is from your village and it is your airline. You see plenty of it happening, it’s an area one does not want to go into because for a Nigerian who refuses to talk in terms of his local government or his tribe.
Proposed Model for A National Flag Carrier
Please find below, a random listing of a few flag carrier ownership status
It is noteworthy that the dividing lines in between the various ownership structures are not drawn along the axis of developed and developing nations nor are they drawn along the Europe Africa divide, also all the listed airline have a history of 100% state ownership.– Capt B. Allwell-Brown
TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN BARA ALLWELL-BROWN: CIVIL AVIATION LEGEND.
Objective Consultant/Advisor Positions or Board Membership in Private or Public Sector Corporate Entities
Nigerian Railways, Ebute-Metta, Lagos,
Technical Assistant in training
3 months a year Hanus on Loco Workshop Mechanical Engineering Training
Participated as Engineering Workshop Draughtsman in the Nigerian Railways Conversion from Steam to Diesel Motive Power Project
Supervised Installation and Operations of Lathes and other Engineering Training Equipment at the Lagos Iddo then Ultra Modern Terminal Building for the Nigerian Railways 1960 Independence Skills Training Exhibition.
1964-1999 WAAC/Nigeria Airways Ikeja, Lagos
Instructor Pilot/Pilot Examiner/Test Flying Pilot/Director of Flight Operations/Director of Corporate Ventures & Investments/Board Member
Domestic Airline Pilot & Command Pilot Federal Government Security & Liaison Flights 1964-1967
Airline Pilot Captain Grade International Flights 1968-1999 Flown into and in every continent of the globe
1963-2000 Held the Pilot Licences of several countries including the UK, Nigeria, the USA, Norway, Denmark and Sweden
Director of Flight Operations oversight responsibility for over 2500 staff located worldwide including over 180 Pilots and 350 Flight Stewards and Stewardesses
As Director of Flight Operations instituted and enforced the use of a Nigeria Airways Operating Procedures Manual that changed the safety record of Nigeria Airways Pilots from an unenviable one to an internationally acclaimed good safety record.
As Director of Flight Operations trained, upgraded and deployed over 60 Nigerian Command Pilots (Captains) and successfully implanted a 100% Flight desk crew Nigerianisation Program 1976-1979
1971-1999 Operated the B070, DC10 and B&47 aircraft types variously as Airline Pilot, Test Flying Pilot Instructor Pilot and Pilot Examine
1991-1995 Hajj Flights Consultant to the Pilgrims Board responsible for Safety and Quality Assurance and Reporting Director to Chairman Pilgrims Board, Minister of Aviation and Minister of External Affairs
1976-1999 Trained Numerous DC10 and B747 Pilots
1995-1999 Nigeria Airways, Ikeja, Lagos
Director of Commercial Ventures & Investment (DCVI)
Incorporated Skypower Aviation Handling Company Ltd (SAHCOL) and nurtured her to attain over N1.2 billion turn over and an operating surplus of over N800 million in her first year of operation. SAHCOL is the only existing legacy of the defunct Nigeria Airways
Oversight responsibility for Skypower Properties Limited (SKYPOL) a company with over N12 billion property portfolio worldwide
Oversight responsibility for Skypower Catering Company (SKYCATER)
Oversight responsibility for Skypower Press Ltd (SKTPRINT)
Education 1950-1956 Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar,
Cambridge School Certificate
1957-1961 Yaba College of Technology, Lagos
UK Certificate in Mechanical Engineering
Colonial Administration’s Federal Government Diploma in Mechanical Engineering
1973 Royal Air force Aero Medical Course Lufenham Midlands UK
1979 Pilot Examiners Course UK CAA – Stanstead UK
1998 Enhancing Negotiating Skills and how to handle difficult people – London UK
1999 Entrepreneurship Lagos Business School – Lagos, Nigeria
1975-1995 Several local and international management courses and seminars
Board and other appointments
1978-1979 Board member Nigeria Airways the national carrier
1973-1975 Board member Delta Air Transport a commuter airline owned by the Rivers state government
2005 Board member Mingi Motors a Port Harcourt SME vehicle leasing sales and service company
1979 Federal government committee for the housing of public servants
1974-2000 Served in several federal government accident investigation panels and tribunals
1999-2008 Served as aviation consultant to the ministry of aviation, a bank airlines and the national assembly
Interests Social Service
Charity Work – Manager & Lead Instructor NAFPCI Computer Training Centre Sam Ethnan Air Force Base, Ikeja, Lagos
Community Service – Chairman First Estate Community Abule-Taylor, Abule Egba, Lagos
Leader Brown House Team Finima Community, Bonny Island Rivers State/NLNG joint legacy affairs committee
Traditional Title/Honours Honoured by the Amayanabo of Bonny as a Senior Category Titled Citizen of Bonny KingdomShare