Air Peace on Thursday inaugurated its first all-female flights from Lagos to Abuja and Owerri, to promote gender equality in the nation’s aviation industry.
The Boeing B777-300 aircraft piloted by Simisola Ajibola and assisted by Senior First Officer Quincy Owens landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at 3.29 p.m. amidst pomp and pageantry from aviation stakeholders.
The aircraft also departed Abuja and touched down at the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport, Owerri at 6.00 p.m. where it was welcomed with a ceremonial water salute.
Speaking at a brief ceremony in Abuja, the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, commended Air Peace for joining the league of airlines that had operated flights with an all- female cockpit, cabin crew members, engineers and flight dispatchers.
Mr Sirika, represented by Talba Alkali, Director, Safety and Technical Policy, Ministry of Transportation, said the feat had shown that the airline was gender friendly.
According to him, this is the first time a Nigerian airline is carrying out an all-female flight with a high capacity aircraft, adding that lower capacity aircraft were used by both Arik Air and Aero Contractors in previous occasions.
“Air Peace has made a tremendous impact on the industry and we as regulators and the ministry will continue to create an enabling environment for the airline and other domestic airlines to thrive.
“Today’s event is yet another testament of the safety of our airspace and we will continue to work with the airlines to make it safer,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said over 20 per cent of key positions in the airline were being held by women, who had demonstrated that they had the capacity to deliver.
Mr Onyema said the airline had employed about 2,000 workers since it began operations over three years ago, stressing that about 1,500 of the employees were women.
“Air Peace is an airline run by women. We are very proud of giving women opportunities to excel because we believe that there is nothing that men can do that women cannot do.
“We want to encourage our female children that they should aspire to be whatever they want to be by emulating what our female flight and cabin crew members have done today,’’ he said.
The Air Peace boss commended the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for the support given to domestic airlines, especially the recent removal of the Value Added Tax on transportation and waivers on the importation of aircraft spares.
On her part, Ms Ajibola thanked Air Peace for giving her and her colleagues the opportunity to conduct the historic flight, adding that Nigerians should get used to having women in the cockpit.
“There are times we are boarding and the men will see me in the cockpit and they will behave like: “Is it a female flying us? Are we safe? And we laugh about it, because it is 2018.
“We expect people to be conversant with having females in their cockpits. But I guess we will give them a little more time to understand that what the men can do, we equally can do,’’ she said.
The US-trained pilot called on young Nigerian girls to embrace their dreams without fear of intimidation by their male counterparts.
Two passengers, Emmanuel Ikedi and Anthony Okoroafor, told NAN that they were impressed with the way the pilot flew the aircraft and lauded Air Peace for the feat.