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Nigerian pilots make history as Air Peace takes delivery of Boeing 777-300 aircraft                                   

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Louis Ibah

Nigeria’s local carrier, Air Peace Airlines Limited, on Saturday, took delivery of a Boeing 777-300 aircraft in readiness for the commencement of its international operations.                       

The new aircraft, a 320-seater Boeing 777-300 christened  “Ojochide” and marked 5N-BUU,  touched down the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at about 1.37p.m. to a traditional water  salute by fire fighters from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

The arrival of the aircraft considered as one of the biggest and most complex machines in aviation industry, makes Air Peace the first Nigerian airline to birth two of the wide-bodies Boeing 777 (better called triple seven) aircraft series in the country.

Recall that the airline had also set the record early February 2018 when it became the first Nigeria airline to bring in the slightly smaller Boeing 777-200 aircraft series into the country.

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But unlike the Boeing 777-200 aircraft flown into Nigeria  by expatriate pilots, the arrival of the Boeing 777-300 aircraft was greeted with more fanfare by aviation industry professionals as the aircraft was this time flown into the country by two Nigerian pilots – Captain Victor Egonu (who was the Pilot-in-Command) and First Officer Emmanuel Iwhiwhu (who was the co-pilot).

“This is a more advanced, more complex, more automated, and a far more sophisticated flying equipment designed by man. For me, it was a wonderful experience inside the cockpit flying in this aircraft to Nigeria,” said Iwhiwhu, who was co-pilot on the aircraft inaugural flight to Nigeria.

“We had to go for a type rating course in Boeing to gain the knowledge and be certified to fly this Boeing 777-300 aircraft series; we did it to prove that Nigerians have the capabilities in-country to fly any aircraft once the opportunity is created for them,” added Iwhiwiu.

On his part, Captain Victor Egonu, who is also the Chief Pilot for Air Peace Airlines while lamenting the shortage of experienced aircraft Pilots in Nigeria to man the latest aircraft types used by international airlines, commended the management of Air Peace for investing in the acquisition of the Boeing 777 aircraft and the training of Nigerian pilots to fly them.

“There is a shortage of experiences Captains in Nigeria and what this implies is that you have more expatriate pilots manning the cockpits of aircraft in Nigeria,” said Egonu.

According to him, what abounds in Nigeria are freshly graduated cadets who roam the streets looking for job opportunities to gain the flying time to graduate into Captains and finding no employer willing to take gamble with inexperienced pilots.

“We don’t have the Nigerian Captains for the Boeing 777 aircraft. In fact, sine the demise of Nigeri Airways, the country has suffered a shortage of experienced pilots. What you find mostly are new pilots who are looking for experience.

“We have more foreign pilots being employed as Captains. But what Air Peace is doing is to retain those foreign pilots to fly the Boeing 737 aircraft, while pushing more Nigerians to be trained on how to fly the Boeing 777 aircraft series. At present, the airline is training 18 Nigerian pilots,” Egonu added.

Managing Director/CEO of Air Peace said the airline had invested in four of the Boeing 777 aircraft, and that with two already in the country, the airline was expecting the last two before the end of the year.

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“We believe that this will enable us create more employment opportunities for Nigerians because that is the reason we exist. We want to help curb the unemployment situation in the country,” Air Peace CEO, Mr. Allen Onyema told aviation reporters.

Onyema said the Federal Government had designated Air Peace to operate flights to London, Houston, Dubai, Sharjah, Guangzhou-China, Mumbai and Johannesburg.

He commended the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika and President Muhammadu Buhari for supporting Nigerian airlines with the removal of value added tax and granting of waivers on aircraft spares.

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