Lagos (LOS) Murtala Muhammed airport approach from the North
My Flight Career as "Bush Pilot"
07.05.1977 - 18.08.1983
from PrivatPilotLicenze to CommercialPilotLicenze
IFR, Single & Multiengine Land
, an Austrian working as aircraft mechanic at "Aero Contractors (Nigeria)"
introduced me to the Lagos Flying Club
where I met the Manager and Chief Instructor, Captain Shaikh.
He took me for a flight with a good old Cessna 152
(5N-AHD) and I got hooked. We arranged flight training to obtain the PPL
(Private Pilot Licence). I achieved this goal and I started flying around with my Cessna 172
, mostly for my business trips. After the ditching
on this aircraft by Debby, I purchased a better equipped Cessna 206 Stationair
(5N-AIU), my Sky-SUV! I soon found out that tropical weather could pose a challenge.
Thunderstorms (Squall Lines and Harmattan (fine sand in the atmosphere) where the main obstructions. Flying "IFR" without an IFR rating and only basic avionics is not recommended.I did it, learned by doing and was many times just lucky! I needed a solid IFR training and the rating!
, I organized the needed training documents for the Instrument Rating (IFR) from the Boardman Flight Training Inc
. in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
After studying all the theoretical stuff in Nigeria, I went to USA, passed the written exam and started the flying part. It took me 2 weeks to obtain my IFR
rating. Once in the USA I also purchased
an electrical horizon for 5N-AIU and a new set of Avionics, like VOR/ILS, DME, Transponder and a new Radio Transmitter (just could not afford the new Storm Scope
). IFR was was the sure way to roam around in bad weather. I wanted to make it "safe" for my trusting passengers!
I decided to go Commercial
and traveled to US to get the required ratings. I went to Dallas Fort Worth
(Texas) than the weather became horrible and I drove to Reno
(Nevada) to continue the Multi Engine
part. Today they would call it stress!
A Dutch Aircraft Engineer, working with Aero Contractors
did all my maintenance work for my aircraft and kept the needed logs. Aero contractors where had a fleet of Piper Aztec PA-23 doing air charter flights. I knew all of their
pilots and they where good customers at the Crocodile Bar. Some where members of the Hash (IHHH) and one of them died in the "Big-Bang". I met them all over the country's airports. I also got the occasional lift home to Lagos, in case I got stranded in the middle of nowhere.
When I was lucky I got flown back with my mechanic to fix the problem and was back in business. This happened not very often, but still, Aero was a real bone to my operation.
Other hazards encountered where landings into short dirt strips
or roads, spiked with holes or old termite hills
and surrounded by "high" trees. The landing might be just OK, to climb out of it and over the treetops near by, could be another matter!. The heat might worsen it.
Night landings into unlit runways can result in a landing on the taxiway or a runway under repair, probably garnished with heavy equipment! Getting fuel out of old drums, on deserted airstrips, might chock your engine! Actually the reason for the demise of 5N-AIU!
There are many other hazards, I want not to dwell in! Just imagine you getting "the craps", hours from the nearest airfield. Landing on a deserted road looks like a good solution, not shit in your pants
CESSNA 172 "Skyhawk"
The 1st "Texco Aircraft" 5N-AHD
Debby Gossen, a member of the Lagos Flying Club, ditched my first aircraft, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, into the Lagos Lagoon. She borrowed the plane for a trip to Benin City and encountered bad weather,
got "vertigo" and finally ditched it into the Lagos lagoon.
This came as a bit of a shock to me, since I was loved of my little aircraft!
Debby was sorry, but also happy to have survived the crash. Like all of us! However when she tried to dive for the plane in order to rescue some personal items, I shouted at her to better stay in the kitchen! Something an emancipated girl does not like to hear!
I felt a bit sorry for her since her hurt ego was probably punishment enough!
CESSNA 206 "Stationair"
The 2nd "Texco Aircraft" 5N-AIU
The Chessna 206
was my second aircraft. She was equipped with a 300hp 6 cylinder Continental engine and a variable pitch propeller. I installed the latest flight instruments
inclusive an electrical horizon
, to make sure I get through all the thunderstorms preferably upright. I had some harrowing experiences in this field! Coming out "on top" inverted and disoriented or worse.
Worse was stalling the aircraft in a thundercloud than entering a spin and coming out of the cloud base seeing the ground spinning, vertigo is just scary! If you survive the experience you try to avoid it in future, if possible!
The "Belly Pack" fitted underneath the fuselage was holding a charcoal grill, beer and other essential items for survival. All seats where equipped with
stereo headsets and bottle openers. The only problem was the lack of a toilet which made many "emergency landings" necessary! The Cessna was a very powerful
and reliable aircraft and I flow her for well over 1'000 hours, mainly for business in Nigeria but also for trips to neighboring countries like Togo, Benin, Ghana and Ivory Coast,....
PIPER PA-28 "Cherokee"
The rental craft from the Lagos Flying Club
The Lagos Flying Club, originally situated at the Lagos Airport and shifted to the Magbon Airstrip
, near Badagry, operated a Flying School and rented our light aircraft. One of them the Piper
was our favorite when my own aircraft was not available due to service or other reasons. It was a change to my high wing plane and it handled quite well.
The avionics where not up to standard but we learned to fly "IFR" with only an ADF and a tumbling horizon,Vertigo
had to be overcome in order to survive a squall line!
To overcome the problem I bought in USA an electric driven artificial horizon which could not tumble! A simple weather radar (Stormscope) was high on my wish list!
PIPER PA-80 "Twin Comanche"
The aircraft from the US Flight School in Reno, Nevada.
1981 I started my Multi Engine and CPL(Commercial Pilot Licence)
training with Boardman in Dallas Fort Worth (Texas) but due to bad weather in the region I drove West to Nevada. I earned already my "Instrument Rating"
This made the following task easier. In Reno
I found a suitable training facility, where I earned my ratings (CPL & Multiengine)
within eight days of vigorous flight training.
For the written test I prepared, as usual at home, In Nigeria and did the test the first day at the facility.
My instructor (and examiner!), an old Air Force Pilot was quit a character and subjected me do stunts with the old aircraft, I will not easy forget. Stalls, secondary stalls, spins, barrel rolls after take off and this while he switched off one engine for excitement.
The problem was the engines (2 Lycoming AIO-320) of this "old" aircraft didn't, sometimes, restart well. So unintentional practise landings on one engine at the nearest airstrip in a Nevada mountain valley was called for. The flight area was called "Sky Ranch" and my instructor, quite appropriate, "Cowboy"..!
I got my ratings on 18.08.82 after a test flight, comprising single engine landings into the low evening sun on a lonely mountain airstrip, stalls and spins recovery and other disturbing stuff. The examiner was my very own instructor and quit uncompromising!
But I passed. I became a fully rated Commercial Pilot. I planned to setup a charter flight business in Nigeria, to counter the rapid decline of my core business: You will probably ask me whether I did not try to do something else. Of course I did, or at least tried:
Summit Aviation Ltd.
a nice but costly try!
, I formed, with the than acting Minister of Civil Aviation, Alhaji Abubakar, a company named "Summit Aviation"
. I arranged a loan with First Citizen Bank
and negotiated the purchase of 10 Partenavia P.38 Victor
airplanes, in Belgium. These where manufactured in Naples/Italy. I arranged the trial flights. As preparation I went to the USA and earned my Commercial Pilot & Multiengine Licence (CPL).
I also hired 3 pilots for the start up of the venture. The deal was practical completed, the company set up and ready to operate with all papers and permits.
Than came a Military Coup!
The new military ruler Babatunde Igiagbon
severely restricted Civil Aviation.
Fist City Bank got alarmed and canceled the loan and I had a hell of a time to get out of the contract with Partenavia
I also got dragged into a military investigation on the allegation that I have flown out fugitives during the coup. Let alone the troubles with the new military regime.
Needless to say that I burdened all the expenses accrued in this ill fated venture!- I Got myself even deeper in the shit but it was interesting!!
At the same time I was tied up in a bitter legal and personal battle with my Nigerian partner. He used all means including JuJu
and blackmail (most probably also the "fugitive" allegations) to intimidate
and to demoralise me to cover up his deeds. He stopped short of killing me. After all, he couldn't kill the chicken which laid the golden eggs!
Don't blame me, at least I tried! ...or as the Ozzies put it: "Shit Happenz!"