Introduction

An air operator's certificate (AOC) authorises an operator to perform specific commercial air transport operations. An AOC is issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) once it has been established that the operator has the required personnel, assets and systems in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public. An AOC applicant must have an air transport licence (ATL), which is issued by the NCAA and permits the holder to operate scheduled passenger or cargo air services in Nigeria.

Procedure

Part 9 of the Civil Aviation (Air Navigation) Regulations 2000 governs the procedure for applying for, processing, renewing and revoking an AOC. To commence the application process, an applicant must send a letter of intent to the NCAA director general, applying for an AOC. The letter of intent must include the following information:

  • the aircraft type (the aircraft must have a certification data sheet that is acceptable in Nigeria);
  • the year that the aircraft was manufactured (NCAA regulations stipulate that aircraft to be used in all commercial activities in Nigeria should not be older than 22 years);
  • the current registration marks on the aircraft (if any);
  • the purpose for which the aircraft will be used; and
  • the operator's ATL.

Following receipt of the letter of intent, the NCAA will invite the applicant to an exploratory meeting to explain the certification process and all other requirements.

The AOC is valid for 24 months and can be renewed for a further 24 months. It will be revoked only if the established certification standards are not maintained by the operator. The AOC will be suspended if it is not used within 30 days for licensees engaged in scheduled operation or 90 days for licensees engaged in non-scheduled operation.

Below is the certification process timeline, which takes a minimum of six months.

Phase 1 - pre-application phase

  • The NCAA will appoint a certification team and process the pre-application statement of intent form (AC-OPS 001).
  • Discussions on all regulatory requirements, the formal application and attachments and any other related issues will take place.

The minimum timeframe for the pre-application phase is one week.

Phase 2 - formal application

  • The completed application form (O-OPS 002) and attachments must be submitted. Thereafter, a meeting between the certification team and key personnel of the applicant will take place.
  • Documents and manuals (including the curricula vitae of key management personnel) must be submitted for evaluation. The applicant must employ the following qualified key management personnel, with a level of competency in civil aviation that is acceptable to the NCAA:
    • director of operations;
    • chief pilot;
    • director of safety;
    • director of maintenance;
    • chief inspector; and
    • quality manager.

The minimum timeframe for the formal application phase is two weeks.

Phase 3 - document evaluation

The NCAA will review the applicant's manuals and other related documents and attachments to ensure conformity with the applicable regulations and safe operating practices.

During this phase, certain manuals must be approved by the NCAA, while others must be submitted to the certification team.

The minimum timeframe for the document evaluation phase is three months.

Phase 4 - demonstration and inspection

The demonstration and inspection phase will be carried out only after a satisfactory documentation evaluation phase.

  • A thorough audit by the certification team at the applicant's premises will be conducted to ensure that the proposed procedures are effective, and that the applicant's facilities and equipment meet the NCAA's regulatory requirements.
  • After a satisfactory audit, an emergency evacuation and ditching demonstration will be carried out.
  • After a successful emergency and ditching demonstration, a demonstration flight will be carried out.

The minimum timeframe for the demonstration and inspection phase is two months.

Phase 5 - certification

Once the airline has met the regulatory requirements of the Civil Aviation (Air Navigation) Regulations, the NCAA will issue the AOC with the appropriate specifications and ratings. The minimum timeframe for the certification phase is one week. Following the issuance of the AOC, the applicant can engage in commercial aviation activities in Nigeria.

For further information on this topic please contact Olugbenga Aduroja at George Etomi & Partners by telephone (+234 1 462 1660) or email (olugbenga.aduroja@geplaw.com). The George Etomi & Partners website can be accessed at www.geplaw.com.

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