Aviation Minister hints at July 15 for nationwide domestic flights

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, hinted on Saturday in Kano that domestic flights would resume across the country’s airports by July 15. Sirika, however, said airports that were not ready would be given enough time in order not to risk peoples’ lives.

The minister stated these when he led a team from the aviation industry and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, on a simulation exercise with a MaxAir flight, VM1644.

He said the exercise was to ensure that the airport was opened in accordance with the protocols established by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and to assess the airport’s readiness for safe operation.

Sirika stated, “I am very glad and I think the civil aviation authority and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria have done extremely well under our watch to ensure that everything we put in place on physical distancing and good hygiene is being established and is being followed

“So we believe this airport is one of those airports that are safe to operate in and out during this COVID-19. I am happy with what I saw and it is good enough for us to go.”

On seating arrangement, he said, “The airplane is hygienic enough once you have your mask, you are safe to remain seated on your seat and where possible, we will keep the distance.

“However, let me explain the mechanism in an airplane that makes it safe in COVID-19 period. Airplanes are designed in such a way that the ambient air at altitudes is clean. It is not contaminated. The air is dropped in the aircraft pressurised and because of pressurisation, the temperature of the air goes up to 200 degrees, which is twice that of boiling water, and there is no bacteria or virus that can survive it, and it is suddenly cooled to about two degrees centigrade and then it is passed to a filter. A high efficiency filter and passing through the filtration system ensures that every single organism is screened and then it is passed to the cabin and once it is passed through the cabin, it comes from the ceiling downwards.

“So it is not coming from the cockpit to the rear, it is from the ceiling downward and it drops on the floor and gets circulated. This circulation happens every two minutes. On a flight from Abuja to Lagos, the circulation will happen like 27 to 30 times. With this, it is more hygienic to be in an airplane than to be in an operating theatre in the hospital.

“With this mechanism in place, everything will be safe, provided we are decontaminating the airplane before we enter and decontaminating after we leave and also cleaning all the possible surfaces that one will touch. If this continues, then everyone is safe to remain in the cabin seated next to each other with the mask on.

“So with this, yes you can, but in the departure and arrival halls and everywhere, including the buses, you must remain physically distanced, at least six feet or two metres.”

The minister further revealed that the Maiduguri airport was ready for operation, adding that airfares are normal. “There is little or no increase because nothing changed within the cabin,” he stated.

On his part, National Coordinator, PTF on COVID-19, Dani Aliu, said, “Additional recommendations to the aviation authorities in terms of operationalising this airport, in particular, to avoid having crowds and to make sure that the airlines depart promptly will be done.” – Thisday.

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