Family-owned Nigerian carrier Arik Air is planning a novel way of beating high oil prices: it will refine its own aviation fuel.
According to the airline’s chairman, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Johnson, his business group has “a licence to build a refinery in Nigeria”, and will look to produce its own aviation fuel. “We don’t have any choice in the matter,” says Dr Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, the airline’s executive director corporate strategy. With the group’s strong engineering resources it could have the operation up and running in 2-3 years, he adds.
Sir Joseph revealed the fuel plan after announcing orders for seven Next Generation Boeing 737s and four 747-8 Intercontinental airliners at the show. The fast-growing airline, which only began operations in 2006, carried just over a million passengers last year and recorded a turnover of $210m with its current fleet of eight 737s, he said.
The first of the new 737s will be delivered from July 2009 with the 747-8Is being delivered from 2012-13. The carrier already has five 777s on order but with the first of these only arriving in 2011 it is looking to lease Airbus or Boeing widebodies as interim lift for its new long-haul services to the UK and US. These are set to start in autumn this year and early 2009 respectively, says Sir Joseph.
Arik Air is the second carrier to commit to the passenger version of the 747-8I after Lufthansa. Its 747s will be configured with five classes, including a premium economy cabin and a “Presidential” cabin, says Sir Joseph. The Presidential class will take up the entire upper deck of the 747 with 16 seats. “It will be like a private jet in an airliner,” he said. Arik Air GE engines to power 12 new aircraft, the deal being worth around $500 million at list price.
Arik Air has chosen the GE as engine supplier for its widebody twins: the GEnx engine will power seven Boeing 787 Dreamliners, and the GE90-115B will power five Boeing 777-300ER/-200LRs, both part of an earlier aircraft order.
“GE has been very supportive of the growth in Nigeria, and I have a strong relationship with many GE businesses, including GE Energy and GE Commercial Finance - Aviation Services," says Sir Joseph.
In a footnote, Boeing’s press release on the order referred to three 747-8I orders, but Arik came to the show with a surprise for Boeing’s chief salesman Ray Conner. “They told us this morning they were adding another one to the order,” he says, with a big grin on his face.