By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE management of Arik Air, yesterday in Lagos, said it had produced the first Nigerian pilots to fly an Airbus A340-500 aircraft.
A statement by the firm’s media officer, Mr. Adebanji Ola, named the pilots as Captain Horace Millar-Jaja and Flight Officer Imomoh Bodeame, who were trained at the Airbus Company in Toulouse, France.
According to the statement: â€œArik Air, Nigeriaâ€™s largest commercial airline has again blazed the trail by producing the first Nigerian pilots to fly an Airbus A340-500 aircraft. The feat was achieved by Captain Horace Millar-Jaja and Flight Officer Imomoh Bodeame, who were recently trained at the Airbus Company in Toulouse, France. Captain Millar-Jaja, who had a six weeks conversion course in Toulouse, had his maiden flight on the A34Q-500 aircraft from London Heathrow to Lagos on Sunday, July 19, 2009.
His counterpart on the course, Flight Officer Imomoh Bodeame, however, had his maiden flight on A340-500 a week earlier on July 11, 2009, also from London Heathrow to Lagos. Before the historic flight by the duo, the highest version of an Airbus aircraft ever- flown by a Nigerian pilot was A340-300.â€
Relieving the new experience, Captain Millar-Jaja, who before now was flying Arik Airâ€™s Boeing series, said it was a milestone achievement to have been the first Nigerian pilot to fly A340-500. He said: â€œIâ€™m delighted to have been the first Nigerian to fly this kind of aircraft. This has, no doubt, put Nigeria on the international standard in wire technology.
It is also a milestone for a Nigerian airline having a set of crew to fly such an airplane from Europe to Nigeriaâ€.
â€œAs an old generation pilot, the technology was challenging because it wasnâ€™t easy blending into the new generation driveâ€, Captain Millar-Jaja stressed. He pointed out that the A340-500 aircraft is high-tech equipment. â€œIt is flown by button-wire technicalities, no control column but a joy stick like that of a video game. The difference in Airbus and Boeing Is the difference in philosophy of simulation changeâ€.
â€œFlight Officer Imomoh shared the view of Captain Jaja on the A340-500. Imomoh, who had been flying on the Bombardier CRJ900 series in Arik Airâ€™s fleet, said the experience was quite nice. â€œI really enjoyed the first experience on A340-500, the aircraft handles very well. I must point out that it is a different kind of mind-set from the CRJ I had been flying. I enjoy flying CRJ, but Airbus is another challenge because it is a much bigger aircraftâ€, said I momoh.
Flighl Officer Imomoh disclosed that he was a bit apprehensive on his first flight because of the weight of the aircraft. â€œThe high point of the flight was taking off from London Heathrow which
was fantastic and the landing at the Murtala Muhammed in Lagos which was smoothâ€.
Captain Millar-Jaja, who joined Arik Air in 2007, started his aviation career in 1983 and has been a Captain since 1991 flying mostly the Boeing family. He has accumulated 10,800 flying hours. In the case of Flight Officer Imomoh, Arik Air is his first job and has spent two years on Ihe CRJ900 aircraft with 1400 flying hours.â€
The statement added: â€œBoth pilots thanked Arik Air for The exposure and opportunity stressing that Arik is the way forward in Nigeriaâ€™s aviation industry. Arik Air presently has two Airbus A340-500 in its fleet and they are used on the Lagos – London Heathrow and Lagos-Johannesburg routes. Arik Air is Nigeriaâ€™s leading commercial airline.
It operates a fleet of 28 state-of-the art regional, medium haul and long haul aircraft. The airline currently serves 20 airports across Nigeria as well as Accra [Ghana], Cotonou (Benin), Niamey and Agadez (Niger), London Heathrow (UK) and Johannesburg [Soufh Africa). New services commenced on 3 June from Logos to Freetown (Sierra Leone), Banjul (The Gambia) and Dakar [Senegal), 4 times a week [Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday). On 7 June, the airline began service between Abuja and Katsina with three flights per week (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday).
The airline currently operates 120 daily flights from its hubs in Lagos and Abuja
It employs more than 1,400 staff.â€