The Federal Government has said that Nigerians will acquire about 420 private jets within the space of seven years from 2013 to 2020, which will add to the 80 currently in operation.
This came just as international experts said that Nigeria and China topped the list of countries currently buying private jets, following recession in North America and Europe.
The Federal Government, in the National Civil Aviation Policy, 2013, unveiled in Abuja on Friday, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent, said the general aviation or private jet sector currently had about 80 planes with a potential to grow to 500 by 2020.
The Federal Government said the NCAP 2013 was produced after a detailed diagnostic review of the aviation sector in collaboration with the World Bank.
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Industry experts have estimated that the additional 420 private jets will cost not less than $15.3bn (N2.4tn). They said the price of the various types of private jets being currently flown by Nigerians in the country ranged from $8m to $65m.
Consequently, taking the average price of $36.5m and multiplying it by the government’s projection of 420 private jets, about $15.3bn is expected to be spent by wealthy Nigerians in acquiring the private jets by 2020.
Part VII of the 73-page NCAP 2013 read in part, “General aviation, which currently has approximately 80 aircraft with the potential of growing to 500 by 2020, could emerge as a key driver of regional connectivity and economic development.”
Some of the luxury private jets owned by pastors, politicians and business moguls in the country include Bombardier Global Express XRS, Bombardier Global 5000, Gulfstream 450 & 550, Embraer Legacy and Dassault Falcon 900, among others. Each costs about $60m.
Other brands of private jets in Nigeria are Hawker Siddley 125-500, Hawker 900XP, Cessna Citation Jet, Cessna Sovereign and Bombardier Challenger 604 &605.
In order to grow the general aviation sector to accommodate the projected number of private jets, the Federal Government, in the policy, said it would give serious consideration to the development of disused or low traffic secondary airports for general aviation.
In line with Part VII of the NCAP 2013, the government said the private jet sub-sector had “largely been ignored and has operated in the shadow of commercial airlines as there has been no dedicated policy, regulatory framework, infrastructure or services to support it.
“There has been limited consideration for general aviation (private jets) requirements in air traffic management planning and in the development of dedicated infrastructure at airports other than Lagos and Abuja.”
The policy stated that the development of low traffic secondary airports for general aviation would provide “seedbed opportunities” for aviation in areas where it had not yet been significant such as Akure, Makurdi, Minna, Yola and Jalingo, among others.
It said state governments would be encouraged to partner the Federal Government to become active in reviving smaller airports, particularly for air taxi operations for business, tourism and cargo (Free Trade Zones), which could benefit domestic and regional air transport, as well as economic development.
Part VII of the policy adds, “Access to the airspace will be equitable to facilitate the effective operation of GA instead of the current practice where GA traffic is controlled in the same airspace as commercial jets.
“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority will adopt a clean-sheet approach to introduce and structure a new regulatory framework that will allow Nigeria to develop a safe, modern and efficient GA sector.”
The policy states that government’s new airport master plan will seek ways to increase capacity and flexibility for general aviation, including ensuring adequate parking and hangar space, allowing Maintenance Repair and Overhaul and Fixed Based Operation activities at the airports.
The government, according to the policy, will also develop air traffic control procedures capable of accommodating increased small aircraft movement.
It adds, “Government’s objective is to extend the aviation network beyond scheduled operations between cities and intends to introduce appropriate incentives for domestic operators operating aircraft seating less than 80 passengers.
“Government will also encourage the establishment of flying schools as training ground for pilots, aviation technicians and air traffic controller to alleviate the shortage of skilled personnel in the aviation industry.
“GA could also be used as training ground for future airline pilots and employees in other skilled occupations, thereby making an important contribution to the skills requirements of the wider aviation industry. The sheer resource requirements to address these issues may necessitate the establishment of a dedicated division within the NCAA or even a restructuring of the authority.”
However, industry expert have said that some aspects of the NCAP 2013 are capable of thwarting the growth potential of the sector.
These include the aspect that stops private jets owners from carrying on board friends and business associates.
Also, the aspect that requires private jets operators to disclose the identities of all passengers on board a local flight was also severely criticised by industry experts.