Chinedu Eze and Demola Ojo
Africa’s most profitable airline, Ethiopian Airlines, on Saturday made history as it transported its passengers from the Bole International Airport Addis Ababa to the Murtala International Airport Lagos on a Boeing B777-300 ER plane operated by an all-female crew.
The crew was made up of Captain Amsale Gualu, First Officer Tigist Kibret, and 11 cabin crew members. The flight is the first international flight to be operated by an all-female crew to Nigeria.
The 391 passengers on board the ET 901 flight that lasted approximately four hours, thirty minutes applauded the crew during take-off and after the plane touched down in Lagos.
On arrival in Lagos, the flight was welcomed with water cannons which preceded a ceremony to welcome the historic flight.
The Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Mrs. Nkiru Onyejeocha, commended the Captain and the rest of the crew, saying that their successful flight from Addis Ababa to Lagos is proof that women can achieve so much if given the opportunity.
Onyejeocha also commended Ethiopian Airlines and said it has always partnered Nigeria both in good times and bad. She recalled that earlier this year when the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, was closed for runway repairs, Ethiopian Airlines was the only foreign carrier that agreed to operate from the alternative Kaduna International Airport.
She also noted that the successful operation of the all-female flight by the airline is an incentive to women in Nigeria to realise that the aviation industry is an attractive sector where they can rise to the highest position and that those who dream to be pilots should know that the dream is realisable.
Commenting at the ceremony held at MMIA, Captain Gualu said she was elated to have flown with an all-female crew to Lagos. She revealed that flying was a childhood dream and since she realised it, she has gone on to fly different aircraft types from Bombardier, Q400 to flying the large body aircraft, Boeing B777.
“Since I was a child I wanted to be a pilot,” she said. “When I was young, my father used to take me and my sister to the airport to see aeroplanes take off and land and I used to admire pilots’ uniforms and that was how I developed the passion for flying.
“After my university education, I joined Ethiopian Airlines as a first officer and flew the Fokker 50 and the Boeing B737 and then became a captain,” she said.
The General Manager of Ethiopia Airlines in Nigeria, Firihewot Mekonenn said the airline management was happy to operate the all-female flight to Nigeria.
“Ethiopian Airlines has decided to always reward the Nigerian traveller for the loyalty they have shown to the airline. This is the reason that we are bringing the first all-women operated flight in Africa to Lagos, Nigeria.
“Nigeria is not just our great partner but also a country that has shown Africa what women can do. Women can achieve a lot and Nigeria is a leading light in women empowerment in Africa. One of first female pilots in Africa is a Nigerian.
“Today Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s first four-star airline, is proud to be the first to operate an all-female operated flight to Nigeria. We are all witnesses to history today,” Mekonenn said.