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History as Nigeria records first all-female crew flight

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History as Nigeria records first all-female crew flight

Post  Admin on Thu Apr 02, 2009 2:45 pm

IT could be the airline's 50 years anniversary gift to Nigeria's robust air travel business. At exactly 2.28 p.m. yesterday, Nigerian women made a significant entry into the aviation industry when a flight of all-female crew of the pilot, co-pilot and cabin crew arrived in Lagos from Osubi Airport, Delta State. They flew a DASH 8 turbo prop aircraft.


The plane owned by Nigeria's oldest carrier, Aero Contractors, had as crew members Capt. Bolaji Agbelusi, Captain Yop Wash, Jennifer Shodeinde and Catherine Ekanem (cabin crew).

The passengers, who later discovered that it was all-women crew screamed. Some of them wanted photographs with the crew for keeps but there was no room for that. One of the pilots simply described the historic trip as "all fun."

The crew members, who first flew from Lagos to Osubi at 11.55 a.m., returned at 2.28 p.m. (1428hrs) to a grand reception.

Their feat was also adjudged to be rare in Africa.

Speaking to journalists at the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2, Lagos, where they were received by the airline's top chiefs and other workers, Agbelusi described it as a normal flight, noting that the applause from the passengers was very encouraging.

"Everyone was excited about it. The passengers had no idea of what they were getting into, but they were happy to be part of history and on ground in Warri, they all wanted the photograph with the crew, but we could not afford that because we had to man the aircraft first, but a lot of them were very proud to be a part of this."

On how she is able to combine her career and matrimony, Cap. Agbelusi gave credit to "a supportive staff and a very supporting husband."

The flight captain said: "I thank God for making this day a reality, and I want to sincerely appreciate Aero for the kind support and training they have given me to achieve this feat. In our kind of environment this is certainly a difficult thing to achieve for a woman.

"This is an exciting and memorable day for me and my family - my husband and children - who also share in my joy."

Her husband Rev. Yemi Agbelusi, whom she described as "the chief instrument behind all this" and who was also in the plane, said: "We are partners in progress for the good of each other. I am not scared whenever she flies; it's just like everybody who goes to work. People die on Okada (commercial motorcycle) everyday, others die from armed robbers' bullets, there is actually nothing special about it. She is like everybody who goes to work.

"I was very happy when she told me that she will be the commander of the all-female crew. This only happens in a few countries in Africa, and also in America. So, it's another great achievement for Nigeria that our women are being liberated, our women are taking the front role and are being given the opportunity to be what they want to be. It's a plus for the women and all the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are struggling to give women a place in the society, I think it's a very good thing for them," he added.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, who flew in from Abuja to witness "history being made," described it as encouraging, adding that it portends a great future for the country's burgeoning aviation industry.

"This is a great day for Nigeria. We have this aircraft coming from Osubi near Warri to Lagos airport, flown by an entire female crew. The captain, the first officer and the two-cabin crew are all women and I am happy about this. This is good for Nigeria."

Demuren, however, stated that plans were on to appeal to the Federal Government to set aside about 10 per cent of the $46 million Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) fund for manpower development, particularly on training and retraining.

The BASA fund, which is money that accrued to the government on royalties from foreign airlines and other agreements through the defunct Nigeria Airways is in the coffers of NCAA.

Beside Demuren, the Director of Licensing, NCAA, Telema George, Director Airworthiness, NCAA, Mr. Dayo Ayorinde, Managing Director of MMA2, Mr. Alex van Elk, General Manager, Fixed Wing of Aero, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu and Air Vice Marshal Femi Ayeni of Air Transport Group of the Nigerian Air Force were on hand to receive them.

Agbelusi joined Aero in 1998 as a second officer on the DHC-6., and currently flies Bombardier Dash 8. Her career began with her training at Versatile Aviation Inc, Ardmore , Oklahoma (USA) in 1997.

On returning to Nigeria and joining Aero Contractors, she was trained on the DeHaviland Twin-Otter, prior to upgrading to the Bombardier Dash 8.

On Friday, March 13, she was upgraded to the position of Commander on the Dash 8. During this time, she also attended the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration.

Manager Flight Operations of Aero, Capt. Akinlawon George, said: "This is a historic day for Aero for writing our name in gold; the first airline in West Africa to roll out an all-female crew.

"Aero is proud of this achievement. As we mark the anniversary of 50 years of our operations in Nigeria, we want to reiterate our confidence in the Nigerian aviation market, and our determination to continue being the leader in the industry, and our confidence to compete with the best in the world.

"We strongly believe in training our staff, and we have invested a lot of our resources in this area. We are extremely delighted that it is now paying off.

"Aero has always had female flight crew; Capt. Michelle Lawal being the first Aero female captain in the early 1990s. In that space of time, we have had 12 female pilots. Capt. Agbelusi now comes in as the fifth female Nigerian captain. Three young female pilots trained in NCAT joined us last year and we look forward to upgrading them to captains in the near future."



http://odili.net/news/source/2009/apr/2/10.html

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