Super Eagles players and officials made history yesterday as the first passengers to fly out of the Asaba Airport on an international flight to South Africa.
The three-time African champions were earlier scheduled to travel by road to Benin City to catch the chartered flight to Johannesburg for this weekend’s AFCON 2019 qualifier against South Africa.
But aviation authorities who had declared that the chartered Boeing 737 aircraft belonging to Max Air may not be able to take off from the run way of the Asaba Airport due to technical issues, later gave the airline all-clear signal to land there to pick the Nigerian contingent.
The news of the first international flight from the airport threw officials of the Delta State government and indigenes of the state capital into frenzy celebrations.
The Boeing 737 aircraft belonging to Max Air, one of Nigeria’s leading airlines touched down at exactly 5:22pm at the Asaba Airport to palpable excitement with members of the state Executive Council, a delegation from the Palace of the Asagba of Asaba and Deltans on ground to witness the historic event.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and Captain Yahaya Pam, Pilot of the Max Air, described the facilities at the airport among the best in the country and of international standard.
Speaking with journalists at the airport, Captain Yahaya Pam said the Asaba Airport runway was among the top three in the country. “It is very smooth, good and long in line with international standards,” adding that the ramp was topnotch.
He commended the state government for the facilities at the airport.
Okowa represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Honourable Festus Ovie Agas, described the event as a dream come true and a major feat in the fulfillment of the SMART agenda of the state government.
He explained that the recent upgrade of the airport especially the improvement on the runway made the feat possible, stressing that a provisional approval was given to the airport to airlift the team to South Africa for their match against Bafana Bafana.
Obi Ngozi Kowea, leader of the delegation from the Asagba of Asaba Palace, said that with the successful landing and subsequent take-off of the first international flight, critics of Governor Okowa have been proved wrong, and gave the assurance that the Asaba people were fully behind him in next year’s election and throughout his tenure in office.
In their remarks, Delta State Commissioner for Information, Patrick Ukah, and the Director of the Asaba Airport Project, Mr. Austin Ayemidejor, said that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority NCAA has upgraded the Asaba airport to category six.
Members of the Super Eagles boarded the airplane with code number 5N-MHM at 6.55 pm in high spirit en-route the Republic of South Africa ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Bafana Bafana in an AFCON 2019 qualifying game. The contingent arrived Johannesburg at midnight Nigerian time.