T he Akwa Ibom International Airport is the major gateway to the state. The Airport sits on a landmass of approximately 2,650 hectares across three local government areas, namely, Nsit Atai, Uruan and Okobo. At the time the Akpabio administration came into existence, work on the airport that was initiated by the previous administration was only 10 per cent done. In its determined bid to open the state for business and leisure, the administration took up the challenge of making the airport a reality. Governor Akpabio set up the Airport Implementation Committee and charged it with the responsibility of giving the state an airport that would rank among the best in the world. The committee built the airport in a record nine months. And on Wednesday, September 23, 2009, an Arik Boeing 737 aircraft made a historic landing at the airport, in fulfilment of Governor Akpabio’s promise to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the creation of Akwa Ibom State with a flight into the airport.
The airport has a partnership with three reputable airlines, namely, Arik, Aero and Dana, which operate scheduled flights. Corporate organisations such as Julius Berger, Exxon Mobil, banks, as well as individuals also use the airport for chatter operations. AKIA is the first Airport in Nigeria to secure approval for its operational manual. This also entails regular updating of its critical safety facilities, to bring them in line with international best practices as enunciated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The facility has achieved the upgrade from Visual Flight Rule (VFR) status to Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) operations and night operations.
It is designed to have three major components, namely, the passenger airport, the cargo wing and the Maintenance Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) facility. Its 3.6 kilometer long and 60 meters wide runway can be extended to 4.2km, to make it one of the longest airport runways in Nigeria. The airport is designed with facilities to handle the Boeing 747 series. Work is currently at advanced stage to adjust the taxiway dimension and parking areas (Apron), in addition to the new terminal building currently under construction, to enable the airport handle the A380 Airbus aircraft.
The Akpabio administration was determined to deliver to Akwa Ibom people, a fully completed airport before the end of his tenure. That explains the frenzy with which construction work had been undertaken. Unfortunately, this could not be achieved because of dwindling revenue. However, a brand new VIP hanger is being developed besides the main MRO, whose apron is expected to be extended to accommodate cargo operations. All the safety intervals to prime the airport for international operations have been achieved.
International Terminal Construction
T here is significant progress in the construction work on Phase Two of Akwa Ibom Internationa Airport Terminal, following the completion of Phase One. The aim is to ensure that the airport becomes fully operational in no time, to allow for commencement of flights to and from Europe, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and other African countries. In December, 2010, the airport authorities experimented with the use of its facilities for international operations, when it served as departure point for Akwa Ibom, Abia and Cross River Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem. With the success of the experiment, even before the commencement of work on the international terminal of the airport, the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission has indicated intention to make the airport a permanent departure point for pilgrims from the South South and South East geopolitical zones.
The first phase of AKIA has been completed, with the following features:
- A 3.6 kilometer runway, extendable to 4.2 kilometers
- Maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility
- Category 9 Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) facility
- Category 2 Instrument Landing System
- Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT)
- Technical and Administrative Building
- Interim Passenger Terminal
- Emergency Operating Centre
- Aviation Fuel Farm
- Health Clinic
- Police post
- Perimeter road and fence
- Airport access roads
- Water and sewage treatment plants
Attention is currently focused on the construction of the following facilities:
- A taxi-way
- A cargo terminal, with an accompanying apron
- A permanent international passenger terminal building
- A 3-5 star airport hotel
- An aviation training college
- Other ancillary aviation facilities
The new terminal building is designed with facilities for flexible dual use, such that it would serve both domestic and international operations. It will have arrival and departure halls for domestic and international flights, with the routes being split vertically, which will be economical for both passenger and baggage movement. While departing passengers arrive at an elevated forecourt and move on the same level or down a ramp to the aircraft, arriving passengers move downwards to baggage reclaim facilities.
The international wing of AKIA will have an access road network of approximately 32,000 square meters; a car park system of approximately 10,000 square meters, landscaping and lighting facilities. It will also have an apron of approximately 35,000 square meters (excluding runway/ taxiways); airside fittings and equipment; accommodation for up to 1.5 million passengers a year and 750 passengers in a typical peak hour, as well as 500,000 enplanning domestic, international and transit passengers a year.