By Chinedu Eze
The aviation industry was elated last week when it was announced by Nigeria’s oldest airline, Aero Contractors that it had appointed Captain Imoleayo Adebunle its Chief Pilot. Adebunle, is a female pilot who has over 10 years of experience, flying for Aero Contractors.
This was the first time a female was appointed Chief Pilot in Nigeria’s aviation history. The job of Chief pilot is to oversee the scheduling, training, certification, welfare and general activities of pilots that work for the airline. It is a very critical appointment, which needs not only certification and experience but also the approval of the regulatory authority, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Chief Pilot Officer of any airline is the fulcrum of safety of that airline because the pilots, who are the most critical personnel in the safety matrix of any airline, determine the safety and standard of that airline. THISDAY stopped Captain Adebunle in her stride when she was about to fly passengers to Port Harcourt from Lagos on Monday in Aero’s iconic Boeing B737 and she spoke about her experience as a Captain and Chief Pilot. Adebunle said she has been flying for Aero for over 10 years.
“I have been flying now for 10 years and I have been with Aero all through on commercial carrier basically. It has been a lovely and wonderful experience with Aero ever since, its more like a home. We are like a family in here. It is been amazing, and educating for me. I have learnt a whole lot,” Adebunle said. She gave background to how she started as a pilot and how many aircraft she has flown. “I trained in Zaira, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and from there I came into Aero and I have been in Aero since then. Now I am flying a Boeing 737.
When I came in at first I flew the Bombardier Dash 8, the Q100, Q300 series and I moved over to the Boeing 737 back then as a co-plot for about two, three years and then I went back to the Bombardier, Q400, which is much more advanced than the Q300 I flew earlier; so I went back on that as a Captain and now I am back on the B737 as a Captain as well. On Aero Contractors as a major airline in the country, she said, “It’s really lovely, it’s nice, it is actually a place or it is like a good soil that is fertile where you could grow. And it has been in existence for as long as Nigeria.” Commenting on the reorganisation going on in Aero, she said, “What I can say right now is that we are under a new management and it has been practically one of our best times under the leadership of Captain Ado Sanusi as the CEO. “Things have turned around, like there was some time when there was a bit of issues, like when there was economic crunch in the company.
We admire his (Sanusi’s) ability and consistency and endurance that made him to turn things around for the better. “At least from the story of our having one Boeing B737, we can beat our chest to say that we now have three serviceable B737 including one Dash 8 and helicopters. So it has been an amazing time and 2018 has been a great year for us.” Reacting to the appointment, the Aero CEO, Sanusi noted that for the first time Nigeria is having a female chief pilot in a mainstream airline. “But the appointment is not because she is female but because she has earned it as a hard working pilot and has shown good leadership in managing the pilots. So Aero Contractors has given her this position because of her competence, ability and efficiency. “She is the first female chief pilot for Aero Contractors for fixed wing.
This is history for Aero Contractors and Nigeria as it is the first of its kind,” Sanusi said. Reacting to Adebunle’s appointment, the President of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria, Mrs. Felicia Agubata, said she was elated about the elevation of the female pilot. Agubata, who is also an engineer in the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) said, “It is commendable. This is what we want. We want more women to be elevated to such high positions of responsibility because we are better than our male counterparts in such high positions, without sounding immodest.
This is the culmination of gender equity, gender balancing. “I wish to commend Aero too because the airline is known to spearhead and encourage women and it is on record that it was the first Nigerian airline that operated all female flight some years ago before others followed. We need such women as Adebunle. It makes us proud.”