By Chinelo Obogo
The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved N2.29billion for a partnership with Magnus Aircraft, a Hungarian manufacturing firm, to set up a plant at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, Kaduna State, where light aircraft will be assembled.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who spoke to journalists shortly after the Federal Executive Council meeting, said the renewed demand for the “spin recovery aircraft” has necessitated the production of the light aircraft with capacity for the training of military and civilian pilots.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was aiming to assemble aircraft locally from start to finish and that the first set of the assembled aircraft was expected to fly in before the end of May. During an inspection visit to the Magnus Aircraft Headquarters in Pogany, Hungary, in August 2021, the minister said: “If we venture with them, we may start with assembling plants and later manufacturing.”
Sirika said the the government chose Zaria as the assembling base because NCAT provides a ready facility that would save the cost of building another and that situating the plant in Zaria further expands capacity of the school as a Federal Government agency.
Commenting on the rationale behind the project, an aircraft engineer, Abednego Galadima, told Daily Sun that the prospect of setting up an assembly plant in Zaria was very strategic, and would greatly benefit the aviation sector and that there are hardly any downsides.
According to him, the proposal will be beneficial to Nigerians and won’t end up a white elephant project.
Galadima also agreed with the minister who said the Magnus aircraft was good for military training, especially because of its high strength and light weight.
“The assembly plant for the Magnus aircraft which is manufactured in Hungary is a good development for NCAT. It is a general aviation light aircraft and like the Minister said, it is for flight training because of the capability of the aircraft to be used for certain exercises and the fuel efficiency that is associated with it. Whether it is expedient to spend the amount of money budgeted by the FG for the project, as you know, for every aircraft that is used for training, there are engineers that would normally have to maintain it. In this case, even the Hungarians would be assembling the aircraft alongside Nigerian aircraft maintenance engineers and ground maintenance instructors would benefit from that.
“The whole idea is for a training institution where instructors and engineers would see a whole aircraft being assembled from start to finish. It is going to provide very good oppourtunity to garner experience that ordinarily you may not have known and seen. NCAT is gradually phasing out the Tampico plane because of the unavailability of the avgas which it uses and which is not a very common type of aviation fuel and it is more expensive. They would create the aircraft in parts and it would then be assembled in NCAT hangar and this would give the school’s engineers very elaborate understanding and appreciation of what it entails,” he said.
In general aviation, there are two main aircraft fuel types, which are avgas and jet fuel. Choosing the right aviation fuel for an aircraft depends mainly on the type of engine it has. Avgas is used for piston-engine aircraft. These types of aircraft fly through the rotation of the propellers which generate the thrust, while jet fuel is used for aircraft with turbine-engine jets. These fly with the thrust of expelled air.
Galadima, who is the president of the National Association of Air Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) explained that jet fuel which the Magnus aircraft uses is easier to obtain and cheaper than avgas because of its simple refining methods.
He said the most important aspect of the project is the fact that Nigerian aviation professionals like engineers and pilots would become more proficient is handling newer aircraft types
“This is not like having a manufacturing plant, it is just where the aircraft would be assembled. The type training that NCATs engineers would receive is going to be done concurrently. An aircraft is a complex system of systems. It has specifications, the type of engine it uses, the performance, and component location. Aircrafts are like vehicles but they have different specifications even though they are all cars. So the type training that engineers would receive is to understand the differences, specifications, how they function, how they are supposed to be tested, etc. “Such projects like these is very good development for the sector and I don’t see a downside to it. It would afford Nigerian talent the oppourtunity to broaden their knowledge and improve their competence and it would also attract more students from all over the world,” he said.
By Chinelo Obogo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org