By Rotimi Ojomoyela
By Josephine Agbonkhese, Daniel Eteghe & Chris Onuoha
The ability to make good decisions- and quickly too, has again and again been proven to be effortless and almost unique to women. From the home front to corporate institutions, governance and the business world, history is replete with women whose shrewd, dynamic thought patterns have averted and resolved disasters.
The latest of such women is Captain Abimbola Jayeola, Nigeria’s first female helicopter pilot, who, penultimate week, flew the ill-fated Bristow helicopter that was ditched into the Atlantic Ocean en route Lagos from Port-Harcourt, saving the nation the gory tale of another aviation industry disaster by taking skillful and motherly responsibility for the 11 lives aboard that helicopter.
”Ditching” is a controlled emergency measure to land an aircraft on water. Skybrary.com, an aviation website, describes it as a manoeuvre “that, by definition, cannot be practiced and may be extremely hazardous. It is only contemplated when no other realistic option remains in an emergency or, in the rotary case, imminent emergency situation.”
Like an aircraft engineer puts it, “Ditching an aircraft is not a joke; it requires ‘plenty’ of bravery”.
This is because such a helicopter must land right away or crash. So, instead of crashing into land or water, the
Abimbola tactically located the softest available landing spot- the ocean. The emergency notwithstanding, she did this in quite an adept manner that she did not crash but landed as predetermined. Some others would have made a bad decision and struck the nation with tragedy.
Abimbola forever remains a heroine in the hearts of all who truly understand the dynamics of piloting an aircrafts.
Efforts to speak with members of staff of Bristow, when Woman’s Own visited its head-office in Lagos, in an attempt to gain better insights into the personality of the airspace diva, was almost frustrated by security officials at the entrance, but these reporters who stood firm were eventually able to corner some of her colleagues coming in and out of the premises.
“We are happy we did not lose Abimbola or the passengers on board the helicopter. She is a jewel of inestimable value and a treasure to Bristow,” a young man who spoke on anonymity said.
”I’ve never seen her in a quarrel with anyone. Abimbola is such an easy-going woman and a delight to work with. She is a peace lover,” a lady who claimed to have worked closely with her on several occasions said.
Abimbola in the eyes of colleagues
To many like Captain Sheriff Gbadamasi, a pilot of Associated Airline, Abimbola deserves commendation for that singular act. The Captain who likened it to the famous ”Miracle on the Hudson” incident in which the US Airways Flight 1549 lost all its engines due to birds strike and the pilot decided to ditch the aircraft into the ocean where all the 155 passengers on-board were saved, recalled that Captain Chesley Sullenberger and the entire crew were awarded the Master’s Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators by President Barack Obama at the White House.
An engineer of the defunct Nigeria Airways, Engineer Sheri Kiare, also admitted that the young lady flew the helicopter in an unusually professional manner.
“I think the young lady did what I call “professional flying”. We thank God that simulators are helping in keeping them (pilots) on top of emergency situations.
“Abimbola’s action is worthy of commendation by the company and the industry. Though her action is part of normal flying, I must say she did what needed to be done comfortably and excellently well. Captain Jayeola should be commended by the aviation industry,” Engineer Kiare said.
-Hails from Abeokuta in Ogun state.
-Graduated from Bristow Academy in Florida, USA, in 2014.
-Unceremoniously became Nigeria’s first female helicopter pilot in December 2014.
-She flies the Sikorsky S76 for Bristow Helicopters Nigeria.
-She was the captain on the Bristow helicopter that ditched in the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday, February 3, 2016.