Ladidi Victoria Kolo is a female pilot who is excited about her chosen career. Interestingly, the dream was almost aborted initially because of the high cost of training. In this interview with YETUNDE OLADEINDE , the native of Nupeland goes down memory lane to recount the challenges, getting total support from her parent, her father’s friend, and the desire to go back for further training to qualify as a commercial pilot .
HOW did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be a pilot? Well, they saw it as a risky job but later they gave in and saw it as fate. I had so much passion for it; it was all I wanted to do at that time. So they had no choice but to encourage me and to help me take it to the highest level I could ever go. I was never discouraged by them and that actually ignited my passion more for flying because I felt encouraged by all.
What inspired your career as a pilot?
After my first degree, I decided to open up to my daddy about my dream and he was happy for me. So he got in touch with his very close friend, Mr Akin Eric Garuba, who works at Capital Airlines.
They had a lengthy discussion and he promised to get me a school to start from. He then contacted his colleagues in South Africa and admission was given to me. After I got the admission, the issue of payment arose. The private pilot licence training cost a substantial amount of money; it’s quite expensive and my dad panicked at this point because he didn’t even know where to get the money from.
To our surprise, his friend came to our rescue. I guess he saw how passionate I was about flying; he told my dad to calm down and that he would sort out the bills, which he did. According to him, it was payback time for him; he told me my father was a good man who showed him so much kindness some years back. I am really grateful to God and to him because if it wasn’t his kindness I won’t be flying now. I also got the support of my community and I am grateful. My sincere appreciation also goes to my royal fathers, the Emir of Patigi HRH , Alhaji Ibrahim Chatta, the Emir of Shonga , HRH Dr Alh Haliru Ndanusa Yahaya, for their fatherly royal blessings and moral support (may their stool wax stronger.) Here I am today, a humble Nupe girl now a Class1 pilot.
Let’s talk about early life and how it influenced what you are doing now
Growing up for me was so much fun. When I look back at those memories as a child, I smile. I remembered as a child in Maiduguri back then, I was always curious about flying objects in the sky. In my little mind, I didn’t understand the mechanism of flying until I got to know it was flown by human beings and that it was called an aeroplane. I was really fascinated by aeroplanes as a child and I knew I wanted to be high up there flying..
What was your first experience like?
It was terrifying, but as time went on I got used to it and because of the love and passion I had for flying I overcame my fears. You know what it feels like when it’s your first time of learning how to drive. You are a little scared and careful, but as time goes on you will get used to it. It is funny though, but right now I feel safer on air than when on ground. I don’t even think of plane crash, if it is possible I can relocate and live high up there. My fear now is on the road. When I came back and I was told to ride an okada, I was so scared. I wish I can go anywhere I want to by air, no matter how short the distance is.
Are you now a qualified pilot?
Yes, to an extent, because I have my foreign pilot licence but I still need to get to the next stage which is the commercial pilot licence.
I know the economy is bad now and things are pretty difficult but I am looking up to God. Only God can make my dreams come true because for the first training, my parents had to sell the only car we had and it didn’t even cover anything. Also, his friend, Mr Eric Garuba, as I mentioned earlier, was an instrument that helped in the structured payments. He is not even from my place, and not from my state. He encouraged me and told my dad not to worry, he would help with the school, which he did.
I currently have two admissions in a flying school in America and the other in South Africa but the cost is quite scary and I know my parents won’t be able to pay. It cost about $57,000 for 6-9 months course duration.
Are there other pilots from your community?
Honestly, I am not so sure about that but I don’t know of any. Maybe we have which I am not aware.
Do you have people you consider as your role models?
My flying hero is Captain (Mrs). Chinyere Kalu, Nigeria’s first woman commercial pilot.
Why did you choose to read sociology initially?
I chose sociology as my discipline because it gave me the atmosphere of interacting with people, making new friends, finding the solution to social problems all around me. Sociology has helped me to shape my outlook to the world generally.
Is there a relationship between the two?
I would say that studying sociology has given me an added advantage in flying because it’s a pathway for me to understand my work environment better. It has also helped me to know the important steps to developing a more detailed understanding of the various sectors in flying.
Does gender have anything to do with flying?
Not at all. I feel great. I believe in gender equality. People wrongly perceive that pilot trainings should be or are designed for young, mechanically-inclined males. Exceptions may apply when the women are exceptional. It is this gender inequality issue that makes people who have little or no knowledge about flying feel that it’s a job for men only. Male trainees have difficulties as much as their female counterparts. In the course of my training, there were even men that gave up; men who couldn’t complete the training course. However , I completed the rigorous training course. So I’m grateful to God for seeing me through. He crowned all my efforts with success.
What changes would you like to in the sector?
Enlightenment is the key. In Africa, Nigeria being no exception, females are relegated to the kitchen. Even the educated ones still have issues fitting into jobs perceived to be for males only. In addition, the males feel threatened when a female rises up to some professional levels. I believe females should be educated and accorded the equal opportunities. Their confidence level should be elevated as that of their male counterparts. The pilot training courses are capital intensive. So, aside encouraging females, I feel the fees should be subsidised. The females should be given an enabling environment to encourage them come into the industry.
How does it feel to be one of the few female pilots flying a plane?
I feel great and delighted seeing me do what is considered more to be men’s career. I am happy, very happy. I am where I want to be.
Are women really better on the job?
Although being a good pilot is not about gender but more about your professionalism. However, women have an innate advantage because of the ability to switch between multiple tasks, which are a necessary skill when flying a plane and reacting to unexpected situations that might cause an accident. I also think women have an intuitive advantage too.
What are your plans for the future?
I have big dreams but of all the plans on my list, the most important is to serve my country. I want to use my experience here in Nigeria because of the love I have for my country. I once told my dad that I won’t mind joining the Nigeria Air Force, but he strongly believes it is impossible. We all know what it is like joining the force in Nigeria.
Let’s talk about some of the women that you admire
My role models are women who don’t see themselves lesser than any man; women like Senator Ruykayat Gbemi Saraki. I have an uncle who always spoke glowingly of her and I am really fascinated by her courageous activities. Also, the APC gubernatorial candidate for Taraba State, Hajia Aisha Alihassan, and of course the president’s wife, Mrs. Aisha Buhari. -THE NATION