Arik Air has become the first Nigerian airline allowed to operate in the United States in 15 years after receiving US FAA Part 129 certification from the US Department of Transport.
The approval allows Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest commercial airline, to commence US operations with Nigerian registered aircraft. At the moment Arik Air flies three times per week from its hub in Lagos to New York through a part aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) wet lease with Hi Fly Transportes Aeroes of Portugal.
Achieving Part 129 certification involved demonstrating airworthiness standards that meet those laid down by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
In addition to FAA certification, Arik Air was recently placed on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registry, a prerequisite for full IATA membership.
“Arik Air continues to demonstrate its impeccable and rapid operational strength, reliability and safety,” said Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, Group CEO of Arik Air. “To receive Part 129 from the US FAA so soon after our placement on the IOSA registry is a fantastic achievement.
“This is also very good news for the aviation industry in Nigeria as a whole, to have Nigerian registered aircraft operating into the US for the first time in over a decade indicates the major steps that have been taken by the commercial operators and parastatals last year in obtaining Category 1 status for the country and it is an achievement that we all share in,” Arumemi-Ikhide said.
In August last year Nigerian airlines gained the right to fly their own aircraft to the United States after an improvement in the West African nation’s aviation safety standards, Reuters notes.
Airline security in Africa’s most populous country had come under heightened scrutiny in December 2009 following a failed Christmas Day bombing attempt on a US airliner blamed on a Nigerian passenger with explosives concealed in his underwear.
Before December last year, Nigerian carriers were required to wet lease aircraft and crew from another airline with Category 1 status for US-bound flights, something that is prohibitively expensive. Arik Air was the only Nigerian carrier certified and able to afford US services.
“This achievement is an important milestone for Nigeria and US-Nigeria bilateral relations,” US Ambassador Robin Sanders said at a news conference after the announcement was made, adding the move was the culmination of years of work between the two nations.
Nigeria earlier passed an International Civil Aviation Organization audit after acquiring full-body scanners, explosive-detecting equipment and creating separate bays at international airports for screening of US-bound passengers.
Cape Verde, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco and South Africa are the other African nations with a Category 1 rating, meaning they are deemed to have the necessary regulations in place to oversee carriers in accordance with minimum international standards.