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AIR TRAFFIC BOOMS AT AKWA IBOM AIRPORT

By NBF News
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The vision and drive of Governor Godswill Akpabio in completing the Ibom Airport Project has paid off as citizens, residents and visitors to Akwa Ibom and neighboring States of Cross River and Abia utilize the airport for their travel needs.?By Aniekan Umanah ? ?When John F. Kennedy, the then president of the United States of America was dedicating the Chicago O'Hare Airport on 23rd March, 1963, he said, 'There is no other airport in the world which serves so many people and so many airplanes. This is an extraordinary airport.

It could be classed as one of the wonders of the modern world.'

Little did Kennedy know that he was also prophesying an airport that was to come 46 years after - the Akwa Ibom International Airport, Uyo whose inaugural flight was on 23rd September, 2009! Could this be the reason the two airports have a common day in their history- 23rd? And it was on this same day in 1987 that Akwa Ibom State was created. Oh, what a beautiful coincidence!

Courtesy of the leading light, Governor Godswill Akpabio's administration, Akwa Ibom International Airport, in less than two years of its existence, has proven that it is old enough for wisdom, and young enough for enterprise. It has taken Akwa Ibom State to the highest rung of economic ladder; the top of the totem pole where the air is perfumed and rarefied and life is an idyllic replication of the heavens and magic economies hitherto the exclusives of the Frankfurts, Romes, Athens, Zurichs and the Copenhagens.

Today, the airport has not only placed Akwa Ibom on the international aviation map, it has made the state a vibrant and pulsating economy teemed with the life of living with investors and tourists. ?n playing host to an unprecedented number of passengers since the commencement of commercial operations there, and of recent, owing to maintenance currently going on at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar, and the fact that most air travelers to this part of Nigeria prefer the world's newest airport, passenger traffic has skyrocketed with its resultant booming revenue generation. But in the view of Austin Thomas,a businessman and regular user of the airport,' the vision of Governor AKpabio in seeing to the realization of this project has saved us all the harrowing experience of traveling several hours to either Port Harcourt or Owerri for the purpose of making a less than an hour trip to Lagos or Abuja'

The chart and table showing the year on year comparison of passenger traffic and total revenue passenger volume from the date of its inaugural flight till date made available by the airport authorities, show an outstanding growth in commercial activities at the airport. 1, just between January and April, a total of 57,198 air passengers  used the Akwa Ibom International Airport. March had the highest volume with 15,715 while January, February and April followed with 15,292; 13,899 and 12,292 passengers respectively. May, may break this record.

And in 2010, a total of 138,699 passengers either touched down at or took off from the airport. In December alone, about 16,395 used the airport. There were also great passenger flows in August and September with 15,393 and 15,331 passengers for each. They were closely followed by the November and October traffic with 13,832 and 13,553 passengers respectively.

The chart also showed that the highest volume of the travellers in 2010 came from the Lagos-Uyo and Uyo-Lagos routes with 5,991 and 5,041 passengers. Abuja-Uyo had 3,388 while Uyo-Abuja had 2,515 air travellers who used the Akwa Ibom International Airport. As the airport becomes this hub of activities, it goes with a commensurate revenue spinning for the airport and Akwa Ibom State at large. Indeed, Akwa Ibom International Airport now has a good share of Nigeria's air travellers with instant soft spoken aircrafts of reputable world class airlines like DANA, Aero, Arik among others renowned for reliability. Their timely daily flight schedules tell the stories of the organizations better.

Still, Ibom Airport's greatest milestone of the is that it had since commenced its international flight services with the first direct lifting of Christian pilgrims to the Ben Gurion International Airport in far away Tel Aviv, Israel last year's Christian pilgrimage to Israel.

The story of Akwa Ibom International Airport is that of a whiff of fresh air authored by the transparent honesty of the administration of Governor Akpabio who delivered the project in less than a year after its contract was re-awarded to Alcon and Gitto in February, 2009. It was in September same year that it witnessed its inaugural flight. Listen to the story.

Conceived in 2001, the presidential approval for the airport as a national hanger was given in 2004. Thereafter, the then administration signed a contract with Dyncorp International LLC who was later to abandon it in 2008, necessitating the re-award of the project to Alcon and Gitto.

Governor Akpabio had, in 2007 constituted the airport Implementation Committee headed by Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (Rtd.) The committee ensured the continuation of construction works at the airport and development of airport infrastructure which technical evaluation placed at 10% completion. ?to divide its implementation task in two phases. While emergency and interim components of the airport development and facilities such as 3600m runway, maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO) to serve the critical aircraft: Boeing 747-400, aircraft rescue and fire fighting facility, air traffic control tower, technical and administrative building, aviation fuel farm and emergency operating centre(clinic) constituted the first phase, cargo terminal with associated apron, second parallel runway, passengers terminal building, aviation training college and other ancillary facilities made up the second phase.

Today, to the credit of the Akpabio administration, most of these facilities have been achieved for the airport. ? hat government and aviation regulatory agencies like Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA; Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA; Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN; Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NIMET who have made several independent and joint inspection visits to the airport in the last two years, have expressed high satisfaction on the facilities on ground, endorsing the project as meeting the ICAO recommended standard, including the minister of aviation. The living dream, you will agree, is alive!

Akwa Ibom International Airport has one of the best runways for international flights where large-bodied aircrafts can land directly. The maintenance, repairs and overhaul, MRO facility will be the first of such in Nigeria and even West Africa. Repairing aircrafts and doing C checks and A checks in Uyo will be a vast economic spinner for Akwa Ibom and Nigeria at large. And with a runway that any seize of aircraft can touch down, Akwa Ibom is flying higher. ?y flown Akwa Ibom to the other side of the world- where opportunities also flourish. The delight, the wonder and intoxication of this diagonal movement upwards, is more historic than dramatic. Akwa Ibom has spread its wings, tobogganing in curves and spirals through the sky. The only place to go from the bottom of the valley, they say, is upwards. The flight has taken off.

The job has been done!
And the beauty of it all, inaugural flight of 23rd September, 2009 shall remain something to remember. French Professor Jacques Alexandre Cesare Charles' excitement during his first free flight in a manned hydrogen balloon on December 1, 1783 that, 'All was glorious- a cloudless sky above, a most delicious view around. How great is our good fortune!' rightly captures the mood of Akwa Ibom on that unforgettable day. It was day Governor Akpabio became an ordinary citizen. He walked the road with his people

'In December alone, about 16,395 used the airport. There were also great passenger flows in August and September with 15,393 and 15,331 passengers for each. They were closely followed by the November and October traffic with 13,832 and 13,553 passengers respectively.

The chart also showed that the highest volume of the travellers in 2010 came from the Lagos-Uyo and Uyo-Lagos routes with 5,991 and 5,041 passengers. Abuja-Uyo had 3,388 while Uyo-Abuja had 2,515 air travellers who used the Akwa Ibom International Airport. As the airport becomes this hub of activities, it goes with a commensurate revenue spinning for the airport and Akwa Ibom State at large.'