Akwa Ibom International Airport Begins Foreign Operations
19 Jan 2011: Lateef Lawal
Christian pilgrims were, for the time, airlifted directly from Akwa Ibom International Airport (AKIA) to Jerusalem, Israel on Saturday, 8 January, 2011. Before now, Christians from the State and other South East and South-South States used to go through the hardship of first, traveling by road to Port Harcourt International Airport to board flights to the holy land.
According to the Managing Director and chief executive officer of Ibom Airport Development Company (IADC), Managers of AKIA, Captain Jari Williams, the first batch of 215 pilgrims have been airlifted to the holy land. Captain Williams disclosed that a total of about one thousand pilgrims are scheduled to be airlifted in the next one to two weeks from the Airport to Jerusalem.
He further revealed that the facility had been primed to undertake a 24-hour operation, having secured all the approvals from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the purpose. “All the safety valves have been secured,” Captain Williams said.
The Managing Director however observed that AKIA “will only be open up to 9 pm throughout the current operations because our Area control in Calabar closes by 9 pm daily.” On how the Airport was able to handle the international operations of this magnitude within less than two months of notification and request from the Nigerian Christian pilgrims welfare Board through the Akwa Ibom State branch of the body, Captain Williams attributed the success to the unflinching support of the state governor who according to him, had been “more than a pillar” for the company.
He also commended the Airport Implementation Committee led by Air Cdre Idongesit Nkanga (rtd) and Engr. Etido Inyang together with the supervising Ministry of Special Duties led by Hon. Enobong Umoetuk for their unquantified commitment to the success of the operations. “The management greatly depended on these great minds to make it happen”, Captain Williams concluded.
AKIA has witnessed phenomenal growth in about the last one year. Some of the very significant milestones recorded by the airport within the period include; launching the historic inaugural flight into the facility, commencement of commercial flight operations to the airport by Arik Air followed by Dana Air and Aero contractors Airline.
Others include construction of automated gate, production and securing approval for airport operational manual, formal commissioning of the first phase of the facility by Mr. President and undergoing comprehensive calibration by Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). All these are beside the recent upgrade of the Airport from visual flight rule(VFR) operations to instrument flight rule (IFR) operations.