Ibom Air, a commercial airline owned by the Akwa Ibom government, launched its maiden flight on Friday.
A handful of enthusiastic indigenes of the state, led by the deputy governor, Moses Ekpo, gathered at the Victor Attah International Airport, Uyo, as early as 8 a.m for a brief ceremony to herald the “historic” flight.
The people stood by to watch, clap, and shout happily as the flight, a Bombardier CRJ 900 series with registration number 5N-BWM, took off by 12 p.m and hit the blue Uyo sky for the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
Thirty minutes after, a second flight took off for Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The airline has three aircraft, and doing only two routes – Uyo-Lagos and Uyo-Abuja – for now.
“Today’s occasion is a watershed moment for us as a people,” the Akwa Ibom governor, Udom Emmanuel, said at the airport ceremony before the inaugural flight.
“Never in the history of this nation or indeed anywhere else in Africa that I can recall, has a state government gone into airline operations.
“Akwa Ibom state is, therefore, the first to achieve this, and we should all collectively give ourselves a pat on the back.”
Mr Emmanuel’s address was presented by the deputy governor, Mr Ekpo.
The governor said the takeoff of Ibom Air was a testimony to his administration’s vision for “rapid industrialization” of the state.
“Investors will continue to flock into our state, given the ease of traveling the launch of this airline will engender, the peace we enjoy and the hospitality of our people. “We are all winners in this!” the governor said.
Mr Emmanuel chided opposition politicians in the state for trying to cast doubt over the airline.
“It is not everything about us that should be coloured by, or be seen through the prism of politics. We should learn to separate development from politics.
“Ibom Air is a huge achievement for us all. When we board these aircraft to either Lagos or Abuja and back to Uyo, the cabin crew will not ask you whether you are a PDP or APC card-carrying member, rather you will be greeted and be told ‘welcome on board’ as a proud son or daughter of Akwa Ibom State.