Special project director of Asaba international airport, Mr. Austin Ayemidejor, has said that the airport which was downgraded by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has surpassed all the requirements needed by the authority, noting that besides restoring the airport to its original status prior to the downgrade, the airport has been upgraded to category 6 where it can accommodate Boeing 737 aircrafts.
Ayemidejor, who seems to be very versed in airport management and has been running the Asaba airport since its inception, told a group of journalists who visited him at the airport that the Delta state government is now in the process of applying for license to begin international flights from the airport.
He said the letter sent to the state government which communicated the downgrade, stated three critical items which included undulating runway, fire cover and perimeter fencing, adding that the current runway at the airport after rehabilitation and reconstruction, is now one of the best in the country. He added that the fire cover has been 100 percent achieved and the perimeter fencing is also in shape.
“So, beyond the three items NCAA requested for us to complete, we have gone far more than that. To answer your question more succinctly, I must say the Asaba airport that was downgraded in 2015 has achieved far more than the issues raised that led to the downgrade,” Ayemidejor explained.
He said: “It is not just a matter of lifting the ban, the NCAA has restored back the status of the airport as at 2015 and in doing that, after series of inspections carried out, NCAA now wrote: “Sequel to the above the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority hereby grants approval for the upgrade of the Asaba airport to category 6 for aircraft operation of Boeing 737 and its equivalent with category 6 aerodrome rescue and fire fighting operation services for day-light operations.”
Clearing the doubt with regards to the flight which airlifted the Nigeria Super Eagles from the airport to South Africa and back to Asaba, Ayemidejor said the approval given by the authority and signed by the director general, Captain Muhtar Shaibu Usman, was a one-off-approval, saying that international flight was approved only for that operation and after that it expired.
He read the letter sent to the airport for the South African trip thus: “Your Excellency, I wish to refer to your later, dated 14 November, 2018 requesting for a-one-off approval to airlift members of the Super Eagles squad from the Asaba airport to South Africa on Thursday 16 November 2018, this is to inform you that the authority hereby grants the one-off approval for the operation of 737 300 chartered flight to airlift members of the Super Eagles from Asaba airport to South Africa on Thursday, 16 November 2018.”
He said following the reconstruction of the airport, the airport now has the capacity to accommodate Boeing 747 aircraft, adding that the largest aircraft coming to Nigeria is 747 which is the British airways that operates London-Lagos and Lagos-London.
Ayemidejor said: “The next thing we need to do now is to apply for license for further upgrade to category 8 or 9, category 6 is where we are right now. To operate international flight, we need to upgrade to category 8 or 9. It is the exclusive prerogative of the NCAA to grant that after inspection and it must meet the requirement that is needed to achieve that category.”
He said once the international flight is approved the airport can operate 24 hours non-stop provided it has all the very important facilities to operate which he listed to include component landing system, runway that has the capacity to receive 747 and 777, saying the airport has some of the best navigational aids and that needed facilities are on ground just waiting for activation.
He said as at the moment, Arik air, Overland airways, Airpeace and Aero Contractors are the four airlines operating at the airport
The airport project director explained that no operation takes place at the airport without authorization from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).