LAGOS, ABUJA, P/HARCOURT, KANO AIRPORTS READY TO REOPENED
The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, has expressed optimism that flight operations would soon resume at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja; Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja; Aminu Kano Airport, Kano and the Port Harcourt Airport, Choba, Rivers State. Recall that on March 13, the Federal Government had shut all airports, following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Giving the updates at a virtual event organised by the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, ART, the NCAA Director-General, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said the decision to commence flight operations at the aforementioned airports was to avoid chocking the system.
According to him, NCAA had consulted with representatives of airlines and ground handling companies before forwarding a proposal to the Minister of Aviation for approval. “We may resume domestic operations with four or five airports and we hope to expand as we get better. We don’t want to rush everything at the same time and get it choked up. “Everybody is important and we cannot achieve the two-meter physical distance. We are hopeful in the next few days we can resolve those issues and allow the airlines to commence operations. “We have made our suggestion and recommendations and we are awaiting feedback from the Ministry of Aviation,” Mr Nuhu noted.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Air Peace, Allen Onyema, urged the government to provide intervention for local carriers, saying that the gesture would enable the airliners retain their staff. Mr Onyema said: “The world is on break and nothing is happening. The authorities have reeled out things and these things come with a huge cost. How will airlines manage them and still be able to pay about 37 charges. “I do not want free money that I cannot account for. This is not an opportunity to ask for money to buy new planes. “In fact, intervention should be for the work force. I have over 3, 000 staff members at Air Peace. These people’s livelihoods are endangered and we must do everything possible to keep their jobs.
“We should be asking the government for specific things that would help retain jobs. Job retention should be first and foremost.” He said.
Meanwhile, Captain Ado Sanusi, Managing Director of one of the oldest carriers in Nigeria, Aero Contractors, said airlines in the country would be fully ready to go back to the skies at the scheduled time but warned that there is need for caution because some of the protocols such as disinfecting the aircraft must conform with international best standards and must be guided by the input of the aircraft manufacturers. According to him, aviation is highly regulated and so Nigeria must be careful when it comes to aviation business.
The Managing Director said the aircraft that have been idle since March are not the same as parking a car for too long and one day you jump into the car, start it and move.
He said, “We must be careful when we are restarting. It is not like parking a car for long and then jump into the car, start it and drive. Yes we have some protocols that need to be done; but in every contest we (Aero) are ready to start anytime from now and I believe most of the airlines too have gone far in all the protocols the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority wants us to do. Most of them are trainings and some kind of manuals that we need to do and some are also are the acquisition of the Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, that we need to have for the crew and some are reviewing the procedures that we need to do during check in and disembarking as well as disinfecting the aircraft to get them ready for takeoff.”
On social distancing inside the airplane, the Aero managing director said it is not realistic to achieve social distancing inside a single-aisle plane but said operators should focus on ensuring that all protocols at the airport and in the aircraft are strictly followed in line with short/domestic flights as recommended by the International Air Transport Association, IATA. He said if that was done, the possibility of contracting COVID-19 inside the airplane will be minimized to zero.