Aviation Professional Offers Alternative To Building Of Airports Without Considering Viability
An economist, aviation professional and President, Aviation Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Dr. Gabriel Olowo has interrogated the rush for establishment of more airports by State governments, when there are already so many existing aerodromes that are not commercially viable.
Rather, Olowo proposes that efforts should be geared towards developing HUBS at the major airports in the country, especially at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos with so many Terminals in order to attract more traffic and airlines.
He observed that most of the airports apart from the ones in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt are not commercially viable, stating that facilities that would make the existing airports a HUB are still lacking in most of the country’s airports while there is absence of concourse light train network to connect Domestic Terminals and International Terminals and vice versa both in Lagos, Abuja ,Portharcourt and Kano. Installing of modern technology facilities like self- checking service kiosk, etc, are also lacking.
He said: “For Lagos Airport for instance to become a hub, first class and world-class airport transfer connection facility is necessary. Concourse light train should be built to connect the terminals rather than allowing Transit and or Transfer passengers to check out of the customs, burst into the precarious mammoth crowed in rain and shine with their baggage in order to pick a taxi to the next connecting terminal. This is very absurd and a shame at MMA in 45years of its existence since 1978. Transport and Transfer passengers dread Lagos Airport especially in the evenings.”
“There exists too many toll gate check-points rather than the many agencies to share data and file a single watch-list with security. This is a major disincentive for hub development. Passenger facilitation is made more cumbersome rather than the global effort at making it seamless,” he added.
The airport in the western region of Ibadan and others like that are still operating below capacity . The geographical neighbouring States should cooperate on Road & Rail linkages and upgrade the airport to a world class standard for the service of Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti,etc rather than individual state effort at establishing own airport. Its Bad economics if airports are to deliver economic of scale.
“Airports maintenance are not cheap and must be done routinely. All we need is to make an effort at turning the existing ones (after proper enhancement) into hubs.
There must be deliberate effort to develop hubs and not by building non functional airport silos all over the states overstretching the already stressed treasury.
On the plan by Abia and Edo State governments to build additional airports in their states, Olowo described it as good politics but bad economics. What is the status of once glorious Benin Airport. Why not revisit the old ones?
He wondered if the State governments had short term and long term development plans for their states, stressing that each state should necessarily have 5-10 year development plan for their states, which must be strictly honored by subsequent leadership. Government should prioritize the need of the people ranging from basics of life like Food, Shelter, Heath ,Education etc.
Airport construction goes beyond acquiring hectares of land without perimeter fencing, compromising safety of operations ab initio , constructing substandard runways that will be washed away in one or two rainy seasons. It is a highly capital intensive project that should be embarked upon after a robust bankable projection. No thanks to the many abandoned airport projects by the states that are yet begging for funding.
An airline during one of the ART breakfast meeting, revealed that it had to install a transformer at an airport in order to supply power for airport lighting facilities so as to deliver night flight operations to that airport. The transformer was even said to be burgled after sometime by miscreants. This is expectedly a service that should be provided by the airport company but was not, due to lack of funds.
On growing emergence of cargo airport projects, Olowo lamented that the intra and inter-state road linkages to the airports are in deplorable states and wondered how such airports would be useful to farmers and other users to deliver their products.
He emphasized that airports are not only expensive to build because of the many facility linkages but also expensive to maintain, submitting that there must be short and long term enforceable plan by succeeding governments before embarking on airport development if government were to be a continuum. One governor quitting and another abandoning the project such as revealed during the launch of Ogun state agro airport runway is lamentable.
He explained that the roads to take the products to the airports are either not available or in bad shape with high propensity for trucks to tumble and perishable goods destroyed. Explosive goods will also explode. Day old chicken and eggs massively destroyed. States should put their heads together for the establishment of safe, functional and durable interstate road linkages first rather than conceiving the idea of a new agro Aerodrome.