Chanchangi Airlines: Grounded but still dreaming of the skies
ESTEEMED readers, I hope you have not forgotten Chanchangi Airlines so soon, an airline that controlled over 40 per cent of the domestic market even with Arik Air there until the once great airline grounded to a halt.
Chanchangi was so known back then that it had charter operations contracts with the United Nations, the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Football Authority among others.
Chanchangi Airlines Nigeria Limited is an airline privately owned by Alhaji Ahmadu Chanchangi who hails from Chanchangi village in Takum Local Government of Taraba state, Nigeria owning 94% of the aircraft.
The airline has its head office in Kaduna, Nigeria while it operates scheduled domestic passenger services with its main base at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos and hubs at Kaduna Airport, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Port Harcourt International Airport.
Chanchangi Airlines was established on 5 January 1994 by Alhaji Chanchangi and started flight operations to and from Kaduna, Lagos, Owerri, Abuja and Port Harcourt on 2 May 1997.
The airline operated using Boeing 727-200 aircraft, 3 Boeing 737-200 aircraft and 2 Boeing 737-300 aircraft.
The airline was so good at that time that won the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Corporate Merit Award for “Best Domestic Airline of the Year” for 1998, 1999 and 2000.
In 2004, Chanchangi got approval to fly to Abidjan, Accra, Dakar, Douala and Malabo. On 26 March 2006 services from Lagos to Accra were introduced, but were currently been suspended.
Government set a deadline of April 30, 2007 for all airlines operating in the country to re-capitalize or be grounded, in an effort to ensure better services and safety. The airline satisfied the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)’s criteria in terms of re-capitalization and was re-registered for operation.
However, on July 5, 2010, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) grounded Chanchangi Airlines citing a regulation that no airline can operate with only one aircraft in service, which was the case with Chanchangi at the time of its closure.
The airline resumed operations on October 21, 2010, between Lagos and Abuja.
Chanchangi was not bereft of incidents or accidents but none of them was fatal in fact it was one of such accidents that led to the grounding of the airline’s Boeing 727.
One of Chanchangi Airlines Boeing 727s developed a landing gear problem and crash landed at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos on 29 December 2004 after a flight from Port Harcourt. Luckily, the 81 passenger on board were uninjured and there was no major damage to the plane. As a result, the remaining 5 Boeing 727s were grounded to enable investigators to carry out in-depth inspections on the aircraft. On 3 January 2005 the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) permitted the resumption of full flight operations.Following the crash of Sosoliso Airlines flight 1145 on December 10, 2005, President Olusegun Obasanjo grounded both Sosoliso and Chanchangi Airlines.
Chanchangi’s grounding was based on a report that its operations were unsafe. After passing inspections by Nigeria’s aviation ministry, Chanchangi was allowed to resume operations on December 22, 2005.
A Boeing 727 en route to Abuja was forced to return to Lagos on May 9 after the crew reported a problem with the aircraft’s air conditioning system.
On August 22, 2006, two tyres burst on a Boeing 727 with 98 passengers on board. The pilot reportedly made a hard landing to grip with the wet runway after a heavy rain at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. There were no casualties.
Chanchangi suffered multiple safety incidents and near-accidents in mid/late 2007. A Kaduna-Lagos flight was aborted after an engine blade broke off about twenty minutes into the flight. In mid September, a Lagos-Abuja flight returned to Lagos after hydraulic leakages were discovered.
On February 22, 1998, Chanchangi Airlines’ chief pilot asked Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Kaduna, Nigeria for permission to conduct flight training within the airport’s circuit using a Chanchangi Airlines Boeing 737-2K3 which had arrived from Lagos approximately one hour earlier.
As visibility had reduced to 600 meters, he was told it was below the minimum allowed for landing and his request was not feasible. Next, the pilot requested he be allowed to conduct rejected take-off training, and permission was subsequently granted by ATC. Several individuals joined the captain for the exercise. He was instructed to begin the training on Runway 05, and once in position permission for “takeoff” was given.
Normally, any single rejected takeoff at high-speed would require a minimum of ten minutes to allow the brakes to cool before the aircraft could be safely operated again, and depending on various factors, this time period could be much longer, something the pilot certainly would have known. However, within the next twelve minutes, the pilot inexplicably conducted no less than four rejected take-offs, at least one of them and possibly all four of them at high-speed. The brakes on one of the main landing gears (left side) began to catch fire, exacerbated by leaking hydraulic fluid. The pilot continued to taxi the aircraft until the tires and then the wheels of the left main gear disintegrated, preventing the plane from moving any further. He then called for emergency services.
Unfortunately, they were unable to prevent the aircraft from burning to the ground. There were no fatalities. The chief pilot alleged he did not use the brakes for his practice rejected take-offs, however the evidence was unequivocally otherwise.
On October 13, 2007, a Boeing 727 making a trip from Kaduna to Abuja en route to Lagos suffered a cockpit fire.
On 20 August 2010, Chanchangi Flight 334, operated by Boeing 737-200 5N-BIF struck the localiser antenna and landed short of the runway at Kaduna Airport. Several passengers were slightly injured and the aircraft was substantially damaged. Chanchangi Airlines again suspended operations following the accident.
Chanchangi continued to operate skeletal services after is suspension was again lifted but things did not get better, in fact for long it operated with one aircraft along with another airline, IRS until the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) suspended the airline’s Air Operators Certificate (AOC) following a memo signed by the then Director-General of the NCAA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, dated October 14, 2013 ordering all scheduled airline operators whose fleet size had been reduced to only one operational aircraft to immediately stop flight operations.
The directive stated that “Such operations may only resume upon clearance from the NCAA that there is more than one operational aircraft for continued flight operations and satisfaction that such AOC holder has the capacity to have safe flight operations prior to commencing any such operation.”
As at the time of the directive, Chanchangi airline had only three aircraft in its fleet and two of the aircraft had gone for routine checks in Belgrade, Serbia and South Africa, respectively,(albeit for months) while only one was operational.
In 2014, there were rumours that Chanchangi Airlines is likely to resume flight operations on the 12th or 13th of January, 2014 after several months of stopping operations following ‘technical advise’ by the regulatory body, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Keen industry watchers are till date waiting for that rumour to become reality as the airline since 2013.