Cross River State and Aero Contractors have deepened partnership, leading to the reopening of the Lagos-Calabar route and prospects of additional aircraft to the fleet.
The Guardian learnt that Aero Contractors is getting three additional aircraft into service following major repairs by the Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) arm of the airline.
The new development is a positive twist to the tortuous story of the partnership that erstwhile went sour at the twilight of the previous administration.
State governor, Bassey Otu, at the relaunch of flight services from the Murtala Muhammed Airport II (MMA2), Lagos, to Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar, promised to increase the state’s aircraft fleet from the present two to five in the coming months.
Speaking at the relaunch, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi, said for the first time, the joint venture has brought the two Boeing 737 aircraft, owned by the state, into operation.
Sanusi described the feat as a major boost to the airline’s fleet and a demonstration to the quality and professional competence of its MRO facilities.He said: “We are proud of them for putting additional aircraft to service, while working on the fifth aircraft to be back in service by the end of next month.
“We are equally pleased with the full support of the Cross River State government especially, His Excellency the Governor, Bassey Otu, on this joint venture, which we believe would continue to grow and enhance the governor’s vision of growing the economy through tourism among others.
“With our increased fleet, we are delighted to be in the position to fully support the upcoming Calabar Carnival themed: ‘Season of Sweetness,’ this festive season, and we promise our customers competitive fares,” Sanusi said.
The CEO also said that the airline would operate three daily frequencies from Lagos to Calabar. The aircraft would also be deployed to Abuja airport and back to Calabar before returning to Lagos.
Besides, he explained that the airline intended to increase the frequencies as demands grow, assuring that the airline would always offer quality services to its customers throughout the festive season.
Also speaking at the event, Otu lauded the management of Aero Contractors for maintaining the state’s aircraft in its fleet and for relaunching scheduled services to the airport. He was optimistic that the state’s aircraft would increase to five very soon. He explained that the government was determined to position the state as a tourism destination and would attract air passengers into it.
Otu commended his predecessor, Ben Ayade, for initiating the idea of an airline and putting the state on the aviation map. He also pointed out that plans were on to make the airport a 24-hour aerodrome as the airfield lightings are being installed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
He added: “Calabar has been an international airport and we want to raise it to that standard. Flights will very soon be landing at this airport till 9 p.m. The government is installing the light and they are bringing the airport into total functionality so that it will truly be an international airport.
“Before now, it was a bit difficult coming into the state because of the state of the roads, but as from today henceforth, we can fly in here at any time.
“By the time the Calabar Carnival is on, the traffic to this airport will surge. We want to make aviation a very big business for Cross River State.”