Governor Godswill Akpabio
The Akwa Ibom airport, which was built by the state government and inaugurated in 2008 has started international operations as its maiden international flight took off about 7.30 pm last Saturday.
The voyage was the direct air lift of Christian pilgrims from Akwa Ibom International Airport (AKIA) to Jerusalem.
In a Short Messaging System (SMS) message, the state’s Commissioner of Information, Aniekan Umanah, who was highly elated said: “Akwa Ibom International Airport this evening recorded its first international flight from Uyo to Tel Aviv. The flight, which took off at 7.54 pm airlifted 210 pilgrims aboard Sky International’s Bowing 737-900 airrcaft marked Alanya-Smile in the Sky.”
He said that the Governor of the State, Godswil Apkabio, told reporters that the event marked part of the redemption of the people. He thanked God for answering the prayers of the people of the state.
Also, Managing Director, Ibom Airport Development Company (IADC), which manages
the airport, Captain Jari Williams, said that the first batch of 215 pilgrims has so far been airlifted to the holy land.
Williams disclosed that a total of about 1000 pilgrims were scheduled to be airlifted in the next one to two weeks from the Airport to Jerusalem.
He 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.
He added: “All the safety intervals have been achieved.”
The Managing Director however, observed that AKIA “will only be open up to 9 pm throughout this pilgrimage operation because our area control in Calabar closes by 9 pm daily”.
Explaining how the airport was able to manage an international operations of this magnitude within less than two months of notification and request from the Nigerian Christian pilgrims welfare Board, 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 thanked the Airport Implementation Committee led by Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd) and Engr. Etido Inyang together with the supervising Ministry of Special Dutiesled by Enobong Umoetuk for their unqualified commitment to the success of the operations.
“The management greatly depended on these great minds to make it happen,”
He said that the Akwa Ibom airport has witnessed phenomenal growth in the last one year, noting that some of the 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 inauguration of the first phase of the facility by the President and the undergoing of comprehensive calibration by Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
“All these are besides the recent upgrade of the Airport from visual flight rule (VFR) operations to instrument flight rule (IFR) operations,” Williams added.