Nigeria grounds US$51m presidential jet over safety issue

Nigeria's aviation authorities have grounded a presidential jet which was recently acquired at a cost of US$51 million, following an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
 EASA has stopped the Falcon 7X plane, acquired from Dassault Aviation of France, from flying globally, over a recent safety development.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) subsequently grounded the plane, in compliance with the EAD on the Falcon 7X type of planes.

''It is pertinent to point out that this EAD affected all Falcon 7X worldwide and the owner of the affected aircraft type in Nigeria has already grounded the one in its fleet,'' NCAA said in a statement.

“There is therefore no cause for alarm as the authority is on top of it and is not relenting in its efforts to ensure that air travel is saver in Nigeria."

About 70 days after the new N7 billion presidential jet, Falcon 7X, touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, from the manufacturer’s factory in France, Dassault Aviation, France, European authorities have banned the jet from flying in Europe and other parts of the world over safety issues.

The ban, an Emergency Airworthiness Directive, which was issued on Thursday by the European Aviation Safety Agency, the agency that regulates Dassault as well as the European aviation industry, took immediate effect, from May 27, 2011.

The EASA’s grounding of the worldwide fleet of Dassault’s Falcon 7X executive jets came hours after one of the aircraft encountered an in-flight anomaly that could have caused the pilots to lose control.

The EASA directive, which was published on Thursday, said that the jet “experienced an uncontrolled pitch trim runaway during descent. The crew succeeded in recovering a stable situation and performed an uneventful landing.”

An analysis of the plane’s Digital Flight Data Recorder and Fault History Database confirmed the event, EASA said, but the cause of the pitch trim runaway couldn’t be explained.

“This condition, if it occurs again, could lead to the loss of control of the aeroplane,” the EASA notice said.

However, the Cologne, Germany-based safety agency said in its Emergency Airworthiness Directive that the decision to halt all flight operations of Dassault’s flagship jet came at the request of the Paris-based company.
The Falcon 7X is one of the three brand new planes ordered for the presidential fleet last year. The others are another Falcon 7X and a G550 aircraft. Only one of the planes has been delivered.

The flagship of the presidential fleet, tagged Nigerian Air Force One, is a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ).
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