Here’s what flyers can expect when the new airport terminal in Uyo is ready
I recently took a tour of the ultra-modern terminal of the Victor Attah International Airport (VAIA) in Uyo. Construction work is progressing fast. When completed, the new terminal, which has five boarding bridges, will have the capacity to process a projected one million passengers annually.
A busy hub in the making
“We have a proposed sitting arrangement at the departure hall for 1500 passengers,” said Rt Hon. Okpollupm Etteh, Commissioner for Special Duties, in a recent interview. “We have the VIP Lounge, the VVIP Lounge and we have a special bridge for Boeing 747 aircrafts. It’s a modern terminal with modern facilities than can be found in any modern terminal anywhere in the world.”
In keeping to international standard requirements, the existing runway and airfield lighting have been upgraded to Category 2 status, while a new Taxiway (3.6km) has just been completed. According to Etteh, the taxiway is 60 metres in width (wider than the runway), and the idea is to have large aircrafts like Boeing 747s and Airbus A330s land easily on it.
“We are planning for a busy hub, one with frequent flight impressions,” an official of the agency supervising the project told a team of visiting journalists, who took a tour of the newly constructed taxiway last week.
Financed and managed by the Akwa Ibom State government, the airport will not only handle human and cargo traffic, it’s the only airport in Nigeria to have what’s known in the aviation circles as an MRO (i.e aircrafts Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) centre to service aircrafts of various specifications.
“We are discussing with investors to set up an aviation training school at the airport to complement the MRO, Etteh added. “We want to capitalise on the fact that there is no MRO in West and Central Africa. The school will also help improve the economy of the state, because with the establishment of the state-owned Ibom Air, we also need to train our personnel, including pilots and technical staff.”
Future aviation hub
Preliminary work at the site kicked off on 29 July 2019 with soil testing, but actual construction work started on 16 October. At three stories, the terminal building (14.5m) covers a land area of 183m by 117m.
“The ground floor is the checking concourse; the first floor is for arrival while the second floor is the departure area. It has four escalators, seven lifts and staircases for ease of movement within the facility, said Glory James, Information Officer at the Ministry of Special Duties, in a statement published in The Pioneer newspaper.
According to James, the terminal will start off with one Code-F and four Codes-C stands on the apron, five air bridges and a bus gate to serve remote stands, all serving both domestic and international passengers and will accommodate direct flight connections among states and major global destinations.
The airport is looking to be a hub not just for aviation in Nigeria but also for West and Central Africa regions, connecting Uyo with airport cities in Ghana, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde and Sao Tome & Principe, among others.
Expanding the fleet
“We want to take every advantage of every facility we have here, so we can earn economic returns for our people,” Governor Udom Emmanuel said while inspecting the airport sometime in 2020. While campaigning for a second term, he said ramping up the state’s aviation potentials will be one of his chief priorities.
The airport is currently serviced exclusively by Ibom Air, also owned and managed for the state government as a privately-run business under the Ibom Airport Development Company Limited. Commissioned in February 2019, with its first flight initiated later in June, Ibom Air has five aircrafts in its fleet (the airline will take delivery of an additional two Airbus A220 later this year) and operates daily flight to Lagos, Abuja, Calabar and Enugu. Its service to Port Harcourt will launch in July.
The airline has earned a reputation for its on-time departures, consistently hitting upper 90% schedule reliability, according to publicly available statistics. And just last week, management announced that it had formalized a code-share agreement with Dana Air, the first ever in Nigeria’s domestic aviation history.
“The alliance will offer increased frequencies into common destinations as well as code-share flights into destinations each airline does not into, providing more options for passengers,” said Ibom Air Managing Director George Unesi last Friday when the deal was made public. “With the initiation of this business alliance, both airlines have embraced a key global best practice.
“At Ibom Air, our business model and unwavering commitment remains schedule reliability, on-time departures and excellent service. Hence, we are constantly on the lookout for better and more effective ways to serve our customers.”
Building for the future
Akwa Ibom State is looking at an immediate future beyond crude oil. To this end, the current administration is initiating and funding the establishment of multiple industries – 18 are already operational at the last count. To complement these, the state mapped out locations for a Free Trade Zone as well as a deep seaport (2,566 hectares) with room for future expansion.
The 4-lane Airport Road is also being expanded to six lanes in anticipation of future vehicular traffic, arising from activities at both the airport and seaport and the factories.
The expansion includes a drainage system and street lighting.
“We are upgrading the city in general. We are not building for tomorrow but for many years to come,” said Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, Commissioner for Works, explaining the rationale behind the project. “The gateway to a city gives you an idea of what to expect when you enter the city. We are bringing world-class aesthetics to our state. If you fly into Uyo at night, the road you’ll travel on to reach the capital will have streetlights on both sides of the road and on the median.”
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