Nigeria’s NG Eagle, which has faced several delays in commencing operations, has received two wet-leased Airbus A320s from Lithuania’s Heston Airlines. According to Sahara reporters, the carrier hopes to enter commercial service on December 1, 2023, but Nigeria’s civil aviation regulations do not allow airlines to commence operations with wet-leased aircraft.
Adding two more aircraft to the fleet
NG Eagle is a proposed scheduled passenger carrier set up by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) in 2019. It was scheduled to start passenger flights in 2021 from Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS). Furthermore, in February 2021, it received two Boeing 737-700s previously operated by Arik Air.
The proposed carrier has received two A320ceos to add to its current fleet. The single-aisle jets arrived at Abuja Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (ABV) on November 14 and 16 from Riga (RIX) and Castellón (CDT). They were delivered branded with the NG Eagle livery.
The first A320, registration LY-FJI, is a 19-year-old aircraft previously operated by Air Montenegro and once operated by Nigeria’s Aero Contractors between September and October 2021. Aero Contractors is 60% owned by AMCON. The other one, registration LY-WSM, is 18 years old and was previously operated by Smartwings until October 2023. According to ATDB.aero, they are both leased from Vilnius-based Heston Airlines and are part of its fleet of 15 aircraft.
Starting operations in December
AMCON is a government agency set up in 2010 primarily to recover debts. One of its current subsidiaries is Arik Air, which entered receivership under AMCON in 2017 after facing several operational and financial challenges. When NG Eagle was incorporated in 2019, Arik Receiver Manager Kamilu Omokide was appointed Shareholder/Director, with AMCON as the second shareholder and some employees as directors.
NG Eagle was reportedly set up to transfer Arik assets, but this was blocked by the Federal High Court in Lagos earlier this year. The airline was eventually sold to an investor who wished to move forward with the project. Sahara Reporters revealed that the investor is Abdul Ahmad – an acquaintance of AMCON CEO Ahmed Kuru.
With the aircraft received last week, the proposed carrier aimed to commence operations within the next two weeks. However, the country’s aviation regulations only allow airlines to start operating with Nigerian-registered (5N) aircraft. An undisclosed source said to Sahara Reporters,
“To this end, Alhaji Abdul had wet-leased an Airbus aircraft which arrived at Abuja Airport yesterday, and he is waiting for another aircraft. He, Abdul, knows that Nigerian regulations do not allow such airline operations to start up with wet-leased aircraft. The regulations are clear that airline operations can only be started with Nigerian registered aircraft.”
Other reports suggest that Abdhul Ahmed could be working with Arik officials to commence operations with one of its Nigerian-registered aircraft, which the courts ordered not to be used. As of November 2023, NG Eagle had not announced any routes or schedules, and a lot of confusion continues to surround its certification.
Last month, NG Eagle’s Managing Director, Captain A E Dare, wrote a letter to Arik officials requesting the secondment of 12 employees to the startup for at least one year. This included captains, first officers, and other staff from various departments. However, sources within the company stated that the workers listed for secondment were against the move because of NG Eagle’s controversial setup.