Logistics: Bringing It, To Nigeria


August 29, 2009: The U.S. Air Force recently sent a team of twenty active duty and reserve maintainers to Nigeria, aboard a C-130 transport, to spend two weeks showing Nigerian Air Force maintainers necessary techniques they needed revive their C-130 fleet. Currently, only one of the eight Nigerian C-130s is able to operate. The other seven are down for a number of reasons. One of the sidelined C-130s only needed an engine change, so that it could be flown to a European depot for more extensive refurbishment. So the American maintainers killed two birds with one stone. They performed the engine change (and several other procedures) as "demonstrations." That is, while the Americans were doing most of the actual work, they explained each step to the assembled Nigerian maintainers. The work took longer, because the American maintainers would let the Nigerians see, up close, exactly what was done, and answer questions, as they arose.

While the Nigerians had technical manuals showing this procedure, there's nothing that builds confidence more than seeing it done, and being able to ask questions. In Africa, experienced technical people are in short supply. Then there's the corruption, which means no money to buy spare parts (or spare parts that go out the back door to the black market). Often salaries are not paid either, giving experienced people yet another incentive to take a job in commercial aviation (which is much less corrupt).

The U.S. Air Force visit also shows the Nigerians how effect air force maintainers can be, in a very hands-on fashion. To the discomfort of government and military officials, it also provides another opportunity to revisit past stories of corruption, and the dismal aftereffects.

The U.S. will help get all eight Nigerian C-130s airworthy once more. But it will be up to the government and the military commanders to keep those aircraft flying. With adequate spare parts and tools, the Nigerian maintainers can do their jobs.


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