The latest scary news making the rounds about how one of the oil marketers sold adulterated Jet A1 to one of the domestic airlines operating in the country has again confirmed how cruel and desperate people can go for the sake of money.
To these people even, if it will take spilling human blood through air crashes to make them achieve their desperate aim of making quick money, so be it.
The menace of supplying adulterated fuel equally known in the Aviation circle as Aviation fuel is not new as it has become part of norm amongst some of the oil marketers.
This dangerous business which is not even new to the airlines and the relevant aviation authorities however, can discourage air travelers from flying in view of the negative implications such acts may have on safety.
It is well known in the Aviation circle that adulteration in fuel systems can pose among others; a very serious consequence to the engine of an aircraft, ranging from clogging of fuel filters, blocking of fuel supply to the engine and corrosion in the fuel cells and even fuel system components of an aircraft engine.
It is equally known that engines do not run on water or anything other than what they are designed for, to burn, therefore, water contamination of fuel that turns to ice can cause a blockage to an aircraft’s fuel system and engine can lead to rough rough performance or worse, complete failure, leading to a forced landing or crash.
Water not only promotes corrosion in the fuel system components, when enough water is present, it can form ice crystals which freeze at low temperatures, clogging fuel lines, filters and components and putting the fuel supply to the engine at risk as well as the engine itself.
Therefore,contamination in fuel systems can mean trouble for an aircraft.
With all these consequences in the public domain, it therefore becomes criminal for any oil marketer to still see nothing evil in selling contaminated fuel to airlines with no recourse to human lives and other people’s business all in the name of doing business.
Though the issue of contaminated fuel is not news to Aviation including the sector in Nigeria, but the menace becomes more scary in this clime at a time so many negative things are confronting the sector.
While most of the challenges confronting the sector presently can be traced to bad governance, unfriendly policies and unnecessary overbearing influence on the agencies by the subsequent ministers, unfriendly business environment and the abuse of positions by the political class, all these remain the bane of the sector.
Besides the above hindrances, which have taken its negative toll on the sector and airline business particularly on the domestic scene where local airlines struggle to remain afloat in the midst of myriad of challenges ranging from forex scarcity, devalued naira, double taxation and lack of support from the government, all these contribute to why stakeholders are quick to labelling them as non performers.
Though the domestic carriers share part of the blame as witnessed in the lack of unity amongst them with each trying to do the business outside the global ethics.
Without doubt, the airlines are not finding it easy. It only takes patriotism and passion for the existing airlines to continue under all these conditions.
It is therefore worrisome to learn of how one of the domestic airlines, Max Air was last week suspended by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority for some reasons traced to particularly rhe incident of contaminated fuel supplied to a Boeing 737-300 series in its fleet.
A video showing when the contaminated water was being drained out of the aircraft engine has since gone viral with stakeholders within and out of the sector making general statements against air transport in the country.
According to information gathered, jet fuel being contaminated with water or any fluid not approved for use in aircraft can cause engine failure or significant damage to aircraft engines and fuel systems in several instances.
Confirming the incident of the sale of contaminated fuel to Max Air, the director general of the NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu in a virtual interactive session with Aviation journalists, revealed that three oil marketers are presently being investigated vowing that any marketer found culpable will be banned from supplying Aviation fuel henceforth.
The grounding of the affected aircraft by the NCAA according to the DG was done to avert any untold safety issue that the contaminated fuel may trigger.
Besides probing the scandal, the DG equally hinted that the authority has concluded plans to commence a total review of licenses of all fuel suppliers to airports in the country to ascertain their level of strict adherence to required safety standards for fuel supplies.
The affected Max Air’s B737-300 with registration number 5N-MHM was instantly grounded due to the incident of fuel adulteration which led to the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) of the aircraft engine shutting down at the Yola airport on July 7th, 2023.
The DG during the media session declared: “Yes, it’s true, the operations of Max Air B737 fleet has been suspended for a series of issues they’ve had over a couple of times. We did have a meeting with Max Air about a month ago after the landing incident in Abuja, a lot of issues were trashed out. As you are all aware, several days ago, there was a video that went viral too regarding to the issue they had on ground in Yola where supposedly, drops of water was removed from the aircraft. Certainly, during aircraft fuelling, they had water in it but we do not know the amount because we were not there. That same day, when the report reached me, I called for a Zoom meeting with my folks, we spoke and that particular aircraft was grounded.
“The grounding was to ensure it is safe to resume normal passenger operations because when water enters the tanks, it goes through the engines, it can do damage to the fuel controlling it, there are a lot of things that can be spoilt, so we have to be sure they take the appropriate maintenance procedure to ensure continued airworthiness of the aircraft. The second aircraft had landing issues, it was supposedly fixed by Aero contractors in Lagos.
“We have started investigation and we have identified three aviation fuel companies they took fuel from that day. We will mete out sanctions where necessary. We are going to hold meeting with the regulatory commission in other to ensure compliance with standards.
“We don’t know what really happened but we are doing investigating on two sides, we learnt that, that particular aircraft took fuel in Lagos, Abuja and Kano so, our people have gone to those fuel suppliers one in Lagos, one in Abuja and one in Kano to see whether that is the source of the water in the tank is. They are looking at their storage facilities, looking at their bowsers, their fuelling procedures to ensure that everything is okay within the standards required for Aviation fuel.
“I expect to get the report on the investigation on the fuelling stations, any station any fueller that is identified has issue, we will suspend them from supplying fuel until whatever problems is satisfied through our own statisfaction and also we consult with petroleum regulatory agency in Nigeria to ensure all these matters are solved. So, we are taking a precautionary measures of grounding Max Air until the aircraft are fixed”.
As rightly stated by the DG, the latest experience should be a wake up call for the airlines in particular to be more vigilant in their dealings with the oil marketers. In other words the airlines and the pilots in command of such aircraft should endeavor to scrutinize the fuel being supplied to any of their aircraft before its allowed to leave the airport.
Still speaking on the development, the DG NCAA remarked: “All these are in the manuals. It is the responsibility of the captain, NCAA staff can’t be at all fuelling stations, we don’t have enough staff to go into all stations, it is the responsibility of the airline”.
Without doubt, Nigerians are not only waiting for the conclusion of the investigation, but eager to know the marketers notorious for this dastardly act that is capable of endangering the lives of travelers.
The regulatory body and the airlines should urgently meet with the leadership of the oil marketers to let them know the enormity of selling adulterated fuel to airlines.
Any marketer found wanting in this dangerous business should be prosecuted with his/her license withdrawn.
Above all, let the airlines tidy up their financial activities vis a vis their credibility while transacting business with the oil marketers.
The airlines should live above board by avoiding being unnecessarily indebted to the marketers to the extent that they may find it difficult to reject suspicious fuel supplies to them.
It is certain that any airline that is hugely indebted can not gather the morality to confront any marketer trying to cut corners through the supplying of adulterated fuel.
Obviously, there is a problem between the airlines and the oil marketers which must be urgently addressed in other to avoid any imminent calamity that the dangerous game may cause in the nearest future.
Presently, the whole world is waiting ro see how this safety issue is resolved at a tine the sector is preparing for the coming ICAO safety audit next month.