Despite financial challenges, aspiring pilots can achieve goals with hard work – Akpu

CHIJIOKE AKPU is a senior first officer, A380 with Emirates Airlines. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, he speaks on how he rose through the ladder in his career as a pilot from Nigeria to flying into over 40 countries in the world with Emirates airlines. He also encourages young aspiring pilots with scarce resources to keep pursuing their dreams.

Can you take us through your journey as a pilot, including your number of years as a pilot?

I went to flying school at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria in 2006. I was retained as a flying instructor at the college on completion of my flight training where I worked for a year before joining Arik Air on the 737NG. I was promoted to the A330 as a Senior First Officer with Arik after three years. I joined Rwanda Air in 2016 on the A330 for two years before joining Emirates in 2018.

How long did you stay in Nigeria before leaving to practice outside the country?

I spent a total of seven years as a Flight instructor and a Senior First Officer with Arik Air before leaving Nigeria.

Having trained as a pilot in Nigeria, why did you decide to practice outside the country?

I decided to leave for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to challenge myself. And what better way to do that than test oneself with international peers and to affirm that I have what it takes to be an international pilot. Secondly, to learn international best practices so that someday in the future, I could teach the next generation of pilots and aviators in Nigeria.

Despite financial challenges, aspiring pilots can achieve goals with hard work – Akpu

Yes. The procedure is the same for most countries and particularly for International Civil Aviation Organization member states.

Why did you choose to work with Emirates airline?

Emirates and excellence are synonymous and this is what I want to be associated with. It was my dream to work with Emirates since the beginning of my flying career and I am lucky to be living this dream.

Covid-19 affected airlines globally and some even laid off their staff. What was the situation like for you during the lockdown and how has Emirates managed to bounce back amid the impact of Covid-19?

It was a challenging time for most people in the world and more so for the travel industry. The lockdown was not too bad. I spent a lot of time with my family which is very important and I exercised a lot. I was unfortunately made redundant by Emirates after a couple of months as the pandemic took its toll on business but was also lucky to be amongst the first to be recalled from redundancy once there was a positive trend.

During the time away, I returned home to Lagos where I worked as a Captain on the E145 with Air Peace and was privileged to operate their maiden flight to Douala, Cameroon in August, 2020. Emirates is a strong brand and has pioneered lots of innovative initiatives in the travel industry. So, it’s really no surprise to see that we are on a positive trajectory and bringing our much missed services to our customers all over the world as countries begin to ease travel restrictions.

How many countries have you flown to since you started practicing as a pilot?

I have flown to about 40 countries or so. I have honestly lost count. We sometimes fly to multiple cities in one country. Emirates flies to six continents in the world and I’m lucky to have operated all of them.

What is the most difficult situation you found yourself as a pilot and how were you able to navigate such?

We had a challenging approach in Abuja many years ago due to bad weather. What made it challenging was that there are lots of high grounds around Abuja and the approach path for landing. We were able to call on our resilience, training and local knowledge of the terrain and made a safe landing.

Read also: Lack of money makes pilots’ training harder to achieve

What do you miss most about Nigeria?

There’s a lot I miss. As much as I love and live in Dubai, home is home. From the food, to the music, to the smell of Harmattan or the smell of new rain. From seeing family members to bumping into old friends in random places. From talking politics with a stranger in the bank to talking football with a neighbour after work. I miss Nigeria a lot.

What is your advice for young people aiming to become pilots in the future but do not have the resources to make this happen? Are there scholarship schemes to help support aspiring pilots?

What I’ll say may sound cliché but it’s true. Keep dreaming and work hard especially where the resources are limited. I’ll borrow a quote from Seneca, he said “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. We therefore make our luck. There are scholarship schemes from most state governments and sometimes the airlines sponsor cadets too. But one has to be prepared and ready while you await or seek out the opportunity.

Lola OJ’s new book offers guide on relocating to Nigeria

Omolola Ojetola, popularly known as Lola OJ, a British-born Nigerian creative has debuted her book, ‘Before You Move To Nigeria’ which offers a guide for anyone thinking about relocating to Nigeria.

‘Before You Move To Nigeria’ serves as a guide that covers the highs and lows of relocating to Nigeria and information that paints a picture of what it’s like to move to and live in Africa’s most populous country.

The book also contains information for people who have already moved but require assistance navigating their new surroundings.

To fill that void, this book discusses personal experiences as well as the experiences of others who have moved to Nigeria, in order to provide readers with a clear picture of what it’s like to live here.

According to Ojetola, ‘Before you move to Nigeria’ gives a glimpse of the hustle and bustle of Nigeria’s fine cities, as well as the financial, emotional, physical, and mental demands that anyone living in Nigeria must face on a daily basis.

“Coupled with the fictitious story of Titi, you will understand the culture shock that may occur, the real costs of relocating, safety considerations, the challenges of migration, and the steps you must take, all written as if she is sitting right next to you.

“Practical issues such as how to make successful connections through networking and how to begin as an employee or employer are decisions you make as you migrate to Nigeria,” she said.

Lola OJ had to navigate a country full of opportunities after moving to Nigeria from the United Kingdom with no plan. Despite the difficulties that everyone faces, she has built a successful brand for herself.

This, along with other people’s stories, gave her enough insight to write the educational book, Before You Move To Nigeria, which she believes would be helpful for those seeking to return to the country.

States progress towards long term aspirational goal on aviation emissions

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed progress by states towards a long-term aspirational goal (LTAG) of net-zero aviation carbon emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement’s temperature objectives.

This is noted in the summary of discussions for the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) high level meeting held in preparation for the 41st ICAO assembly later this year.

“The ICAO High Level Meeting’s support of a long term goal for states that is in line with the aviation sector’s net-zero by 2050 commitment is a step in the right direction. A formal agreement at the 41st ICAO Assembly would underpin a common approach by states to decarbonize aviation. That’s critical for the aviation industry. Knowing that government policies will support the same goal and timeline globally will enable the sector, especially its suppliers, to make the needed investments to decarbonize,” Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general said.

In October 2021, IATA member airlines committed to net zero emissions by 2050. The path to achieve this will involve a combination of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), new propulsion technology, infrastructure and operational efficiencies, and carbon offsets/carbon capture to fill any gaps.

“Net zero by 2050 will require a global transition for aviation to new fuels, technologies and operations. The significant investments to get there will need a solid policy foundation aligned with a global way forward.

“That is why it is so important for states to carry the momentum of the High Level Meeting through to a formal agreement at the 41st ICAO Assembly in a few weeks,” Walsh said.

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