Obinna Emelike, BDSUNDAY hospitality editor who recently visited the La Tante DC-10, reports that it is a unique restaurant located inside a disused but rebranded DC-10 aircraft rightly located very close to the Kotoka International Airport in Accra.
The La Tante Restaurant DC-10 in Ghana sits right opposite the Marina Shopping Mall at the Airport City in Accra. The 118-seat capacity, fully air-conditioned La Tante DC-10 is built out of a refurbished abandoned DC-10 aircraft belonging to the country’s defunct national carrier, Ghana Airways.
But while Ghana has found a way of turning its abandoned aircraft into a revenue-generating asset, in Nigeria, derelict aircraft gather dust at the Lagos airport.
There are currently 27 dead aircraft scattered around the country’s airport, many of them abandoned for over 10 years, BDSUNDAY checks show.
According to a document obtained from an authority at the airport as well as BDSUNDAY investigation at Nigeria’s General Aviation Terminal’s runway in Lagos, Aero Contractors has 10 Boeing 737 and three different types of De Havilland Canada DHC stored in Nigeria, France, Jordan and United Kingdom since February 2007; Arik has one Boeing 737 and one Airbus A340 stored in Nigeria since December 2008; Chachangi Airline has one Boeing 737 stored in Nigeria since March 2009; Dana Air has one McDonnell Douglas MD-83 stored in France since June 2008, and Dornier Aviation has one Dornier 328-110 stored in Nigeria since October 2009.
Furthermore, Hak Air has four Boeing 737 stored in Nigeria since December 2011; IRS Airline has one Fokker F100 stored in Istanbul since March 2010; Overland has one ATR 72-202 stored in Nigeria since February 2013; SkyPower Express has one Boeing 737 stored since 2013, while ADC has two Boeing 737 stored in Nigeria since 2002.
Sam Adurogboye, general manager, Public Relations Department of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), says there were attempts to get the aircraft out of the MMA2 but airlines that own the aircraft got a court order to restrain the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) from moving them, while a few others were moved out to the morgue at Ejigbo.
While having old abandoned aircraft in various countries is not a new development, experts say where these aircraft are kept or stored and to what use they are put matter a lot.
First, allowing abandoned aircraft to litter the airports sends wrong signals to passengers, especially those visiting the country for the first time.
A country’s airport, no doubt, is often the first port of call for most first-time visitors. As such, many countries build their airports upon the blueprint of splendour. In time the airports morph into national symbols from just a functional commercial air transport aerodrome.
Since visitors start forming their impression about a country right from the airport, many developed countries pay so much attention to making their airports look attractive.
“It does not look good to keep these aircraft at our airports as it spoils the aesthetics of the airports and gives the country a bad image to people who are passing through the country’s airports,” says Dung Pam, chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI).
One way of properly disposing aircraft across the world is to create a graveyard or a storage facility where the aircraft are kept and the parts could be retrieved when they are needed, according to industry experts.
The storage yard typically performs a variety of functions. These include storing aircraft that are temporarily out of service but expected to return to the fleet, reclaiming useable parts which are inspected, overhauled, and then held until needed by active aircraft, and dismantling of the aircraft carcasses.
Arizona desert is the largest “plane graveyard” in the world where more than 4,400 aircraft are kept, according to records. Many of the planes date back to the Cold War or Vietnam War.
Other significant aircraft graveyard around the world include the MiG-23 Graveyard in Balad, Iraq; the famous “A1 Lightning” in Balderton, United Kingdom; Russian Aircraft Wrecks, Moscow Aircraft Museum – Plane Graveyard, Russia; Rinkaby Shooting Range in Sweden; and Predannack Plane Graveyard in the United Kingdom.
This is one option Nigeria can take.
Ghana’s La Tante DC-10
Refurbished with a unique ambiance reflecting the La Tante brand, with its chairs and tables re-designed to meet high operational standards with separate wash rooms for male and female customers, Ghana’s La Tante DC-10 Restaurant came into being in 2013 in line with the country’s objective to establish huge commercial activities that could diversify the airport commercial portfolio not only for economic gain but also to create the appropriate unique environment that excites the travelling and general public.
“It is funny climbing the stairway as if the diner is a passenger going to board a flight. Of course, a number of seats were removed from the 380-seater plane and replaced with dining tables. The restaurant serves 118 people at full capacity. Better known as Green Plane by locals, the restaurant serves local food unlikely to be served on planes such as tilapia, a spicy fish dish, with banku, a stiff maize porridge, among others. In fact, it was the quest to eat a local meal that drove me to La Tante Restaurant,” he says.
“The irony is that while many who have not visited keep thinking the airplane restaurant is expensive, the prices are still far cheaper than restaurants in same up market locality with it. I enjoyed a meal and local Ghanaian brew with 80 Cedi, and I could have been served a smoothie if I had not taken my 20 Cedi change,” he adds.
On further inquiry after his meal, Emelike says he was told by Mawuto, a La Tante attendant, that the old DC-10 aeroplane used to travel from Accra to London.
“Beyond the food, locals and visitors alike throng the restaurant for pictures. The attendant said most visitors prefer to take pictures inside the aircraft even without patronising the restaurant afterwards,” he says.
Trash to cash
Experts say Nigeria can learn from Ghana’s experience to turn some of its abandoned aircraft into a source of non-aeronautical revenues, where airport users can relax and eat while they await their flight. This will not just generate revenue for the airlines and the airports but will add to the ambiance and aesthetics of the airport terminals.
Muneer Bankole, managing director/CEO, Medview Airline, suggests the aircraft could also be taken to a different location, such as museums or schools where students who are interested in studying aviation as a course could have an idea of what an aircraft looks like and learn about its various components.
Pam, NASI chairman, also suggests that the aircraft parts could be dismantled and used as training aids for major aviation training schools in the country, thereby giving students the opportunity to practice with the aircraft parts.
The museums in Nigeria and various tourist centres created to promote Nigeria’s rich culture and heritage could buy some of these aircraft from the airlines. This could serve as a form of tourist attraction.
But our checks show that Nigeria’s National Arts Theatre and museums across the country, which are the primary centres for creative and performing arts, do not have a single aircraft as part of their artefact.
“We do not have a single museum that keeps aircraft as artefact, but it is a good thing to deploy some of those aircraft for use by people in the creative industry. The aircraft will be of better use to the people in the creative industry,” says Shaibu Husseini, a film critic.
“For instance, the aircraft could be used to shoot films. When we utilize aircraft for production scene, it will serve dual purposes,” says Husseini.
He further says children who want to see what an aircraft looks like can be availed of that opportunity using the museums.
“The aircraft can also be used to beautify the cities. We can have one of our old aircraft owned by the Nigerian Airways somewhere central in Nigeria to remind us of our past,” he adds.
BDSUNDAY further inquiries reveal that during the shooting of the film ‘PhoneSwap’, the producer, Kunle Afolayan, was unable to get clearance to use aircraft at Nigerian airports to shoot an aircraft scene. He therefore resorted to creating an artificial aircraft using wood, even while several aircraft litter the airport.
But beyond these uses, some experts have suggested that metal parts of an abandoned aircraft could be melted and used in making cutleries other kitchen utensils.
“It is the responsibility of the owners of these discarded aircraft to dispose of them properly or use their aluminium parts for cutleries or other domestic purposes,” says Pam.
Adurogboye of NCAA also suggests that the aircraft could still be sold out and the parts can be used to make cooking pots, table spoons and other domestic products.
An average Boeing 737 weighs between 65 and 75 metric tonnes, with an aluminium part of over 35 metric tonnes depending on the configuration of the aircraft. De Havilland Canada DHC weighs between 60 and 70 metric tonnes with aluminium parts of about 30 metric tonnes, while McDonnell Douglas weighs 63 metric tonnes, with an aluminium part of over 30 metric tonnes also depending on its configurations.
In the same vein, each of Airbus A340, Dornier 328-110, Fokker F100, McDonnell Douglas MD-83 and ATR 72-202 weighs an average of 60 to 70 metric tonnes, with aluminium parts of 27 to 35 metric tonnes.
From the above, 19 Boeing 737 aircraft could generate an average of 665 metric tonnes of metals, three De Havilland Canada DHC could generate 90 metric tonnes of metals, while the remaining aircraft could generate not less than 135 metric tonnes of aluminium. The summation of these figures shows that the 27 abandoned aircraft in Nigeria can generate nothing less than 890 aluminium metric tonnes.
Investigations show that 1 metric tonne of aluminium costs nothing less than N120,000. This means that a total sum of N106.8 million could be realised just from the sale of the aluminium parts of these abandoned aircraft.
Apart from the metal parts of the aircraft, there are also some other parts that are non-metal. Some of them include the cabin, the cockpit, aircraft seats, toilet, gallery, stabilizer, window frames, the flooring, amongst others.
The sum total of all these is what Nigeria is losing by allowing these abandoned aircraft go waste.