‘If the aviation sector has to improve, pilot participation in decision making is key’

‘If the aviation sector has to improve, pilot participation in decision making is key’

listened carefully to a motivational speaker sometime ago and he shared extensively on how he had an amazing flight on a double-deck aircraft and how smooth the flight was.

He got very curious and wanted to find out who the pilot was and he was flabbergasted when he realised a woman was in control of such a massive aircraft (though there was a co-pilot). We all were in awe and the truth is, for me, when I hear of women doing well in a terrain common to men alone, I am always in awe because it certainly shows that what a man can do, giving the same circumstance and opportunity, a woman can do even better.

You can now imagine how I felt when I heard of my Leading Woman for this week. No! She wasn’t the one who flew the aircraft I just described but she is a pilot who has been outstanding in her field and has dared to break every barrier trying to hinder her on her quest to be a successful pilot and has been a remarkable one for years.

An astonishing combination of beauty and brains, bold, daring and focused are few words that best describe her. She is ready to take up any challenge life brings her way and convert it to wings to soar higher, the gorgeous Ladi Ogun graces this page today.

Ladi grew up in the Northern part of Nigeria, Kaduna state specifically. She got interested in flying because she was looking up to her cousin who is a military pilot but at that time, they weren’t inducting females as military pilot so she opted for the next best time: Airline pilot!

“Initially, I trained to be a flight dispatcher and worked for 4 years before I started flying commercially in December 2009 as a cargo aircraft pilot in Allied Air DHL Cargo. Eventually, I worked with Arik Air for 4 years before my present job flying the Embraer with Bristow Helicopters.” She tells me.

When Ladi is not flying, she loves cooking, reading novels and watching historical movies. She describes herself as a dreamer, spiritually minded Christian and “single but not searching” she emphasied and we had a good laugh at this.

I thought I was a bagel and cream lover but Ladi is way up there, her love for it is quite deep I must say. She doesn’t also fail to let me know it isn’t only about bagel and cheese but dishes like Okro soup, beans, fish and yam are included on her favourite list any day.

A simple loving Nigerian family in Kaduna, who can ask for more? Ladi is surely proud of the family she comes from and she shares more. In her words, “Dad was a Mechanical Engineer with the refinery in NNPC and mom a caterer with companies like the UBA and textile mills. My humble upbringing makes me grateful for everything even what may appear little, I am grateful for all” Ladi says.

It is often said that what a man can do a woman can do better but, Ladi believes strongly that it’s beyond being a woman because in an industry like hers, you have to prove your onions. Again she speaks “Well, a woman has to be two times better to show she’s okay to be accepted in Aviation. It’s just the way a man’s world operates.” She insists.

Speaking on her professional and personal challenges, she has this to say “More often than not, personally, your friends are limited to people at work because you spend more time at work. One has to be careful of one’s company as a lady’s virtue has to be kept unquestionable in a somewhat unfriendly environment and still hold her ground professionally. So a balance has to be made.” Ladi warns.

The Nigerian aviation sector has experienced a lot of challenges till date. Sadly, we do not have a national carrier, the aircrafts aren’t enough, services are not up to par with international standards to mention a few of the various challenges of the sector but, Ladi is of the opinion that Pilots must be involved in matters that have to do with the sector. In her words, “More professional pilot inputs in decision making in terms of policies, airport services upgrade, navigational services upgrades and the likes are very important. Pilots are mostly not involved in politics but if the aviation sector has to improve then there ought to be active pilot participation in decision making and plans.” She advices.

That is not all she has to say on this matter, she tells more “Safety culture has to be improved. That mentality that ‘this is Nigeria’ has to stop.  People have used this phrase over and over again, so much that it is already being accepted but I dare to say that the fact that a majority of people agree to something doesn’t necessarily mean it is good or acceptable”

“We keep speaking of change but the change begins with you and I. If we do not change the wrong, it will affect our today and burden our tomorrow. It gives no hope for the future generation so we cannot continue to say ‘this is Nigeria’ as an excuse for lawlessness or insensitivity to the needs of the country. When Nigerians travel abroad we see improvements and recognise the law and without being forced, we naturally comply, why can’t same be done here? Yes we can, Yes we must and the change starts with you and I”.

On her current employer, she didn’t miss the opportunity to sing their praise as she revealed that as an international company, the services are top-notch and working there has been of tremendous benefit to her career. Again, she speaks “At Bristow, the standards are better than where I was before. Bristow is an international company, a company that also represents a fair culture and respect the laws of the land. It’s been a notch up from my previous employer and I am glad I made the move. It’s been an amazing experience and so far, I have no regrets” Ladi tells me with a grin that says it all.

To anyone trying hard to achieve something and it’s looking difficult, Ladi has this to say

“It’s a long and hard road. Stay strong and don’t give up. Stay grounded in your relationship with your Creator. It will give you respite when difficult times come”

KEMI AJUMOBI

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