A private helicopter belonging to the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, has been suspended from flying by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), following the expiration of some of its documents and spare parts.
The grounded private chopper, an AgustaWestland AW139, with registration number 5N-EAA, was suspended from flying over two weeks ago and is still sitting at the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
NCAA officials who confirmed the development on Saturday, said the suspension would also allow the regulator to conduct vital checks on its safety-critical components, especially some spare parts that are due for replacement.
The official who pleaded anonymity, added that the helicopter may not be cleared to fly within a short time because certain procedures must be followed before it is certified fit to fly.
“On Saturday morning, when it became obvious that the jet was not cleared to fly, the church had to make an alternative arrangement with Bishop David Oyedepo’s chopper,” the official said.
“They had to quickly begin that process by filing the flight plan, etc. It was Bishop’s aircraft that Pastor Adeboye later flew to the event. He could not use his own,” he added.
Also a top official of Omni-Blu Aviation, the airline operating the chopper for Pastor Adeboye, also confirmed the development.
He said a letter from the manufacturer of the aircraft, Leonardo based in Italy, requesting the NCAA to grant a time extension on some spare parts that are due for replacement came late.
“The spare parts due for replacement have been ordered from the manufacturer but they have yet to be shipped into Nigeria because they are usually produced on demand.
“Because of that, the NCAA could not immediately grant the requested extension.
“Instead, the regulatory agency requested that comprehensive safety checks be conducted on the aircraft in line with standard aviation safety practice,” the Omni-Blu Aviation official said.
The Director-General of the NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, who also confirmed the suspension of the chopper, said the regulatory agency suspended flights on the aircraft for safety reasons.
According to Nuhu, the NCAA does not often deal directly with individuals or owners of aircraft but the operators.
“There are safety-related issues that must be resolved before the aircraft will be approved for resumption of flights.
“Safety is the paramount consideration in all approvals given by the NCAA. No matter what, we must not sacrifice safety for flights; that is the whole idea,” Nuhu said.
However, spokesperson for the RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said the matter was being resolved already.
“We will not want to take issue with the aviation authorities but I can assure that an amicable solution is being found to the issue,” Olubiyi said.