Lagos, Nigeria-based and West Africa’s biggest cargo airline, Allied Air, has taken delivery of its first Boeing 737-800 converted freighter. The aircraft worth about N8bn is the first for airlines in Africa. The freighter (MSN 36846) is the youngest 737-800 in the world that has been converted to-date.
The technologically advanced cargo aircraft will be deployed to COVID-19 vaccines distribution across Nigeria as one of its first missions, as it is fitted to deliver medical supplies safely.
The deal was financed through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) intervention fund but structured and delivered by the Access Bank Plc.
The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and the Access Bank Group Managing Director, Mr. Hubert Wigwe, as well as the Managing Director of Allied Air, Capt. Val Tongo, along with other government officials received the aircraft greeted by a water canon ceremony at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Speaking at the brief ceremony held on Thursday at the Abuja Airport, the CEO of Allied Air, Capt. Val Tongo, said the aircraft will be deployed to COVID-19 vaccine distribution. He stated that the freighter (MSN 36846) is the youngest 737-800 in the world converted to freighter to-date.
In his comments, the CBN Governor Mr. Goodwin Emefiele said: The aircraft is funded through the intervention fund of the CBN, but through Access Bank.”
He added: “Only about three weeks ago, the Aviation Minister Commissioned another aircraft for Air Peace. What does that mean, with the hard work, the Nigerian aviation sector is opening up more and more and investments are coming in.”
He called on other investors to invest in the aviation sector, assuring that the CBN and the Nigerian banks are ready to support them.
Sen. Hadi Sirika said at the event that the “aircraft will be dedicated to cargo and the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the country. Before the vaccines arrive, the cargo shade would be ready and the aircraft is also ready for distribution.”
Just like the CBN Governor, he tasked other operators to invest in the aviation industry so it can double its contribution to the GDP to 5 percent or N450bn annually.
The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, said the aircraft will undergo the mandatory process that will ensure the airline has acquired the proficiency to safely fly the aircraft.
“Right now they are going through demonstration flight where they will show the ability to handle this type of Aircraft,” he said.
The GMD Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, said: “We are extremely happy to be a part of this endeavour and these are little signals to show that we are coming out for cargo,” adding that this aircraft can carry specialised medical facility.
By this acquisition, Allied Air has set a new standard in air cargo operation in terms of fleet upgrade in the region that is dominated by ad hoc operators and use of old aircraft for cargo operations.
Allied Air, a member airline of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), is also the first cargo airline in Africa to attain the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate. The airline has successfully renewed its IOSA certificate consecutively since 2016.
Allied Air is also the first cargo-only full member airline of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), the umbrella association of African airlines.
The aircraft is an improvement in the standard and quality of air cargo services delivery in Nigeria, and will be instrumental in the distribution of essential and sensitive cargo including the COVID-19 vaccines. The aircraft will also boost Allied Air and Nigeria’s participation in the emerging Single African Air Transport Market as well as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Allied Air is a regional leader and offers cargo services to the Central Bank of Nigeria, among other services. Allied Air is also the only local air cargo operator in the region distributing air cargo for DHL for almost 10 years now.