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PHCN abandons surveillance helicopters at Lagos airport

By on March 7, 2013

Indications emerged on Wednesday that the Power Holding Company of Nigeria had abandoned four helicopters worth millions of dollars at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the German-made Bolkow 105 helicopters had not flown in the last one year following internal disagreements among some key PHCN officials on how they should be run.

The helicopters are used for surveillance of PHCN installations across the country, including detection of faults arising from bad or disjointed cables, especially in remote locations that are difficult to access by road.

Further findings revealed that the helicopters were being maintained for PHCN by Pan African Airlines, which is based at theLagos airport.

Sources familiar with the situation said Pan African could not carry out maintenance on the helicopters any more because PHCN was not forthcoming in terms of providing necessary funds for the continuous operation and maintenance of the aircraft.  As a consequence, the aircraft became grounded.

According to the sources, the multimillion dollar helicopters did not fly for in the last one year before the latest development.

A source close to the situation explained, “The helicopters have not been flying for a very long time now. At least, in the last one year, I am sure they have not flown. The problem is that some PHCN officials want to be making money from running the helicopter section.

“Some top officials too are showing interest in making money. All these created some differences in opinion, a situation which has left the helicopters grounded for a very long time.”

A top official of Pan African Airlines, who preferred to speak under the condition of anonymity, said the grounding of the helicopters was not the fault of his company.

He confirmed that PHCN was not forthcoming in terms of funds and other logistics necessary for the continuous maintenance of the helicopters.

The Pan African official said, “We provided maintenance for the helicopters, but that maintenance stopped two years ago, and PHCN has not come since then. The reason the helicopters are on the ground, we don’t know.”

The General Manager, Public Affairs, PHCN, Mrs. Efuru Igbo, could only confirm that the helicopters belonged to the company.

She, however, claimed not to be aware the aircraft had stopped flying for a long time, adding that they were being used for ‘line tracing’ by the company.

Igbo asked our correspondent to get in touch with the Assistant General Manager, Eko Electricity Distribution Company Plc, Mr. Pekun Adeyanju, to link him with one Captain Mike in charge of the helicopters.

When contacted, Adeyanju said he did not know the pilot Igbo was referring to. He advised our correspondent to link up with PHCN’s General Manager in charge of Transmission through Igbo.

When our correspondent contacted Igbo again, she did not pick the repeated calls made to her telephone line and she neither responded to a text message sent to the number.

The Assistant General Manager, Transmission Company of Nigeria, Mr. Dave Fabiyi, directed our correspondent to the Assistant General Manager, Aviation, PHCN, Captain Mike Ighofose.

Efforts to get Ighofose to comment on the matter failed as calls made to his line did not get through. Sources at the General Aviation Terminal of the Lagos Airport said he was out of the country.

Sources at the GAT, where the helicopters are currently parked, said two of the choppers had become unserviceable, while the remaining two were still serviceable.

They explained that with routine maintenance, the two serviceable aircraft would start flying, while the two unserviceable aircraft would require “heavy maintenance” to fly again.

The sources could not estimate how much it would cost to get the aircraft back to operation.

Aviation experts said PHCN’s action was a waste of public resources, pointing out that aircraft were not meant to be kept on the ground for a very long time.

According to Wikipedia, the Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm Bo 105 is a light, twin-engine, multi-purpose helicopter developed by Bölkow of Stuttgart, Germany.

It features a revolutionary hinge-less rotor system; at that time, a pioneering innovation in helicopters when it was introduced into service in 1970.