It is very rare to hear children say to their parents in Nigeria, “when I grow up, I want to be a pilot”. Not because it is not a decent career to strive and aim for, but simply because not a lot of their peers aspire to be pilots, and the few who do, often lack encouragement from their parents, peers, and, or family.
We know for a fact that the sky is the limit for any child in Nigeria if placed in the right environment, so it is really no surprise to see another girl child of Nigeria flourish in her chosen field, with the right support and in the right environment.
The case is not different for Nwando Phina Okpalaeke, who is the first female pilot to land a plane at the newly inaugurated Anambra International Airport. An achievement that was met with profound praises and joy from the local community and the country in general.
Her being the first female pilot to achieve this goal, serves as a pacesetter for many other young girls in Nigeria and in diaspora who harbour this same dream to fly to greater heights but are marred or met with various levels of resistance and, or discouragement. Nwando now presents a ray of hope to many who have these aspirations and dreams in a profession that is hitherto thought to be a purview of men. Today, she has become a shining beacon for women all over the world, especially in Nigeria. Thus aiding in correcting the ever-present sexist notions of gender equality.
Nwando, who is from Azia in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, was one of the pilots that landed an aircraft at the new airport during the test run and was met with cheers of joys by the locals who knew of her achievement and many turned out to see her and her crew achieve this laudable landmark.
They could not sing her praises enough, both locally and on a global scale. She has achieved something remarkable that will go down in our country’s history.
Being a pilot is one thing but being a female pilot in Nigeria is a whole different ball game and a game-changer as it is. She is the first female Nigerian pilot to achieve this. It is worth celebrating her success, not only for its inspirational value, but also for her courage.
- Nwando and a pilot crew member
The world is changing fast, and diversity and inclusion is a key topic in many international corners in view of equality, so a female pilot in a male-dominated field serves as a reminder of the hard work and conscious effort she must have put into her training and practice routines, on the way to making her dreams comes true, while holding on to that dream in believing that nothing can stop a person (he or she) who is determined to achieve. Especially in correcting sexist notions out there that tend to discourage women in doing certain jobs which they are capable of doing in the face of prejudice.
Looking at her overall personal and professional achievements, one can argue that she already had it in her to be a leader. Nwando is a Computer Science graduate of Kwame Nkrumah University in Ghana, a university known for its education excellence. In her words, she once noted that education taught her to be bold, and when she finished schooling she could speak for herself and make good decisions about what she wanted to do with her life. she was empowered and set out to achieve. Hence, it is hardly surprising that she was able to carve a niche for herself in the aviation industry as a pilot.
Nwando graduated from Chrisland College, Idimu in 2010, she was admitted to Kwame Nkrumah University in Ghana to study Computer Science. Upon graduation, she trained at the 43 Air School in South Africa where she was certified to fly commercial airplanes. Today she is an accomplished pilot with a significant number of flights under her belt.
She loves playing chess and is a role model for aspiring Nigerian female pilots.