The making of air transport devt plan, execution in Akwa Ibom
The aviation sector plays an important role in the growth of national and global economies. It attracts foreign direct investment, creates jobs, provides means of rapid transportation, and also facilitates international and local trade, as well as tourism.
According to a 2018 report by Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), an independent coalition of member organisations and companies throughout the global air transport industry, the global aviation industry reached $2.7 trillion, some 3.6 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016.
The air transport industry also supported a total of 65.5 million jobs globally. It provided 10.2 million direct jobs. Airlines, air navigation service providers and airports directly employed around 3.5 million people. The civil aerospace sector (the manufacture of aircraft, systems and engines) employed 1.2 million people.
A further 5.6 million people worked in other on-airport positions. Furthermore, 55.3 million indirect, induced and tourism-related jobs were supported by aviation. This underscores the importance of the aviation sector to any nation’s economy.
In his 2019 manifesto tagged, “The Completion Agenda, Governor Udom Emmanuel, said: “Aviation development cannot be under emphasised if my vision for an industrialised state must be actualised. Having turned the state to investor’s haven in less than four years of my administration, there is, therefore, a strong need to improve infrastructure and facilities in our airport and get the airport ready for the influx of investors that are trooping in and out of the state on a daily basis.
“Already, my three-and-a-half year administration has recorded remarkable achievements in the aviation sector, some of which include construction of a two airport runway, upgrade of airport main runway to Category II, construction of new Commercial Building Terminal at Ibom International Airport and installation of full runway lightings.
“In my completion agenda, top on the blueprint for aviation are the completion of the Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul (MRO), expansion of Ibom Air operations and building of the Main Terminal at the Victor Attah International Airport. Other plans captured in my completion agenda, which I intend to actualise before the end of my administration in 2023 are the establishment of Search and Rescue Centre, the establishment of Flight Training School and construction of Power Station to supply electricity at the airport,” Emmanuel said.
In keeping with his manifesto, Ibom Air was established on June 7, 2019. In three years of operation, Ibom Air has lifted over 500,000 passengers. No doubt, the successful operations of the airline could be attributed to the sterling leadership qualities of the Governor and his ability to partner with the private sector.
Ibom Air currently has a fleet of seven bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft, and currently covers seven destinations (Uyo, Lagos, Abuja, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa and Enugu). In June 2021, two new A220-300 series were added to the Ibom Air Fleet. The airline has an unmatched record of schedule reliability and on-time departure.
For instance, in January 2021, of the 694 total flights operated, 650 of them departed on time, leading to a 94 per cent on-time performance. In February 2021, of the 632 total flights operated, 594 of them departed on time, leading to another 94 per cent on-time performance. In March 2021, of the 708 total flights operated, 678 of them departed on time, leading to a 96 per cent on-time performance.
The airline’s highest on-time performance of 99 per cent was recorded in July 2019, when of the 302 total flights operated, 299 of them departed on time. Ibom Air has employed Akwa Ibomites not just in low to senior entry level positions, but in the very highly skilled aviation professions of piloting, cabin crew and aircraft maintenance engineering, numbering over 200.
The airline has plans for extending its operations into other cities in West and Central Africa like Malabo, Douala, Libreville, Kinshasa, Accra, Abidjan, Freetown, Banjul and Dakar. This is evidenced in its placing an order for 10 A220 Aircraft from airplane manufacturer, Airbus.
The proposed aircraft have between 100-150 seats, use 20 per cent lower fuel per seat in comparison to previous generation aircraft and fly to a range of up to 3,400 nautical miles, which is an equivalent of 6,297 kilometres. The aircraft will help to increase the number of people coming into Akwa Ibom such as first time visitors, business travellers and investors.
The Chief Executive Officer of Ibom Air, Mfon Udom, said this during the signing of the agreement with Airbus. “It gives me great pleasure to be here at the announcement of Ibom Air’s order for 10 Airbus A220s. We are pleased with the steep growth we have achieved in the two years and five months, since we commenced operations, a growth mainly driven by the massive embrace of our product and brand by the Nigerian domestic flying public.
“As we contemplated the next phase of our expansion strategy, we gave consideration and opted to procure two A220s on a one-year wet lease, in order to try out the aircraft to ensure it was fit for the purposes of our business. I am pleased to say here that the approach has been a huge success for us. We found out that not only can we fill up the aircraft, but it has also become a favourite in the Nigerian domestic market. Our passengers love it. And so, here we are today, ordering 10 A220s, having tested and validated it as the one-stop solution for our domestic and regional aspirations.”
With the purchase agreement signed, deliveries of the aircraft to Ibom Air will commence in the first quarter of 2023. In furtherance of aviation development, the Udom Emmanuel-led administration undertook the construction of the facility MRO, Terminal building and Taxiway, which are a top priority for the administration.
The constructions are fast nearing completion, and plans are underway to inaugurate them this year. While carrying out an inspection of the projects in April 2021, the Governor said: “Honestly, from what I have seen here, the contractors have exceeded my expectation, they are quite ahead of schedule. You can say it is at 84 per cent completion and the materials on ground can guarantee the expected delivery date.
“A lot of people don’t understand what we have put in here; these are technical details that can facilitate certain aspects of economic growth in the state. The MRO can take two 747 aircraft series, eight of our A-220 300 series and all the CRJs for now. All installations are near completion and you can imagine, we are the newest bride for all the aircraft maintenance companies across the globe and we have received offers from aircraft maintenance companies. You can imagine the foreign exchange this will bring to the state.
“Furthermore, it is expected that upon completion of the new terminal, the airline will commence its regional flights. The project will also attract foreign airlines. The administration also has plans underway to train 100 youths in aeronautical engineering and other specialised fields. 40 youths, constituting the first batch, will be trained by airplane manufacturer, Airbus. As regards the new Taxiway of 3.6km, a great portion of it has been completed while the remaining part is 80 per cent completed,” he said.