Category Archives: General

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D.B. Cooper, the mystery hijacker who jumped from an airliner and changed commercial plane design

D.B. Cooper, the mystery hijacker who jumped from an airliner and changed commercial plane design

By Ofonime Essien

Northwest Airlines

Cooper leapt from a Northwest Boeing 727 similar to this.

Reality can sometimes blow fiction right out of the water, and so it is with the strange case of D.B. Cooper, the first hijacker to jump from an aircraft and into criminal mythology.

On the afternoon of November 24, 1971, a soberly dressed man in business attire approached the Northwest Orient Airlines counter at Portland International Airport and paid $20 for a one-way ticket to Seattle, Washington, using the name Dan Cooper.

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He boarded the aircraft, a Boeing 727, ordered a bourbon and soda, and lit up a Raleigh cigarette. One of Raleigh’s advertising slogans at the time was “Raleigh gives you both rich, mellow tobacco taste plus wonderful free gifts”, which would prove oddly prescient.

DB Cooper

The FBI sketch of the mysterious D.B. Cooper.

Shortly after take-off Cooper called flight attendant Florence Schaffner over, handed her a note saying he had a bomb and asked her to sit beside him. He opened his attache case to reveal a glimpse of wires and red tubes and demanded that she write down what he told her. On the note that Schaffner delivered to the captain, Cooper said he had a bomb and would blow up the plane and everyone in it unless he was provided with four parachutes and $US200,000 in $20 bills, worth about $1.2 million today.

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The flight landed in Seattle-Tacoma Airport, the passengers and most of the crew left the aircraft which was refuelled, the money and parachutes were handed over, then Cooper made a couple of unusual requests. He asked that the aircraft take off and the pilot set a course for Mexico City flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet and maintaining an airspeed of 100 knots, roughly 185km/h, or just above stall speed. Advised that Mexico City was out of the question due to the amount of fuel the aircraft would burn in that configuration, he agreed that the destination would be Reno, Nevada. He also asked that the landing gear be left down and the cabin unpressurised.

The aircraft took off at about 7:40pm with just the pilot and co-pilot, a flight engineer and a flight attendant on board, all told to remain inside the cockpit with the door closed.

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About 20 minutes after take-off, a warning light in the cockpit indicated that the rear airstair had been deployed and the crew observed a change in air pressure. This airstair extends downward from the belly of the aircraft and in line with the fuselage. Some 13 minutes later the Boeing’s tail made a sudden upward movement, requiring a trim adjustment to return to level flight. This was later shown to be consistent with a human exiting the aircraft via the airstair. Two hours later the plane landed at Reno, where it was surrounded by state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and the FBI, but no sign of Cooper.

The area where Cooper was thought to have landed was somewhere south of Mount St Helens in south-west Washington State, although the precise location could have been anywhere within an area of more than 200 square kilometres of rugged mountains, forests, rivers and lakes. What followed was the most expensive and elaborate manhunt in US history. FBI agents and sheriffs’ deputies combed large areas of the mountainous wilderness on foot and by helicopter. Patrol boats scoured rivers and a submarine searched the depths of Lake Merwin. Following the 1972 spring thaw, FBI agents, 200 soldiers, Air Force personnel, National Guard and civilian volunteers spent more than a month searching the ground for clues, and drew a blank. No trace of Cooper, no parachute nor anything else related to the hijacking was found.

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Despite enormous publicity and rewards offered by the media and government authorities, Cooper remains a mystery man, the man who never was. No missing persons have fitted Cooper’s description, no friends, family members, employers or colleagues have come forward with a positive identification. No parachute schools have ever seen or heard of anyone matching Cooper’s description. The initials “D.B.” were appended to the name “Cooper” by the press, there never was any reason to suspect this was the hijacker’s real name.

In almost five decades since the hijacking just two pieces of evidence have emerged. In 1978, a deer hunter found a placard printed with instructions for lowering the aft stairs of a Boeing 727 about 15 kilometres west of Mount St Helens, still within the potential drop zone.

Two years later an eight-year-old boy on a family holiday raked a sandy riverbank along the Columbia River to build a campfire and turned up three packets of $US20 notes, later proven to be part of the ransom money, but was it washed there or buried? And why were 10 bills missing from one of the packets, which was secured with rubber bands, just like the others?

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None of the remaining 9710 remaining $US20 bills have turned up anywhere in the world. Various websites offer checks for possible matches, and any notes with matching serial numbers would be worth many times more than their face value.

Cooper had done his homework. The Boeing 727 he chose for his mission was ideal for the purpose. The aft stairwell could be deployed inflight, and by a switch from inside the cabin, which could not be overridden from inside the cockpit. The aircraft’s three engines are located around the tail, allowing a fair chance of a safe jump without being incinerated in the jet exhaust. The aircraft also has a low stall speed, giving Cooper a greater safety margin. He timed his jump for the evening of Wednesday  November 24. The following day was Thanksgiving, the start of a four-day holiday weekend in the USA. If you wanted to disappear for a few days and be back at work after the holiday, no questions asked, the timing was impeccable.

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However the impression of a crack parachutist – possibly a former elite military paratrooper – doesn’t quite gel with the facts. Cooper rejected the military parachutes that were initially offered to him in favour of sport models, even though military chutes are designed to be used at night as well as day, and in adverse weather conditions, both of which applied on that night. Cooper chose the older of the two primary parachutes supplied to him rather than the technically superior professional sport parachute. He was jumping on a cold, dark night into mountainous wilderness, with forests, water hazards and few roads. He was wearing loafers and a trench coat and the reserve parachute he took with him was a dummy used for training purposes, a fact that would have been immediately obvious to an experienced parachutist.

Weighing up the odds, speculation persists that Cooper might not have survived the jump, possibly never even deployed his chute. That same year however, among the numerous copycat hijackings that followed Cooper’s, Robb Dolin Heady, a paratrooper and Vietnam veteran jumped from a United Airlines 727 near Reno, Nevada in darkness and landed safely but was apprehended the following morning as he returned to his car.

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Doubt lingers. If Cooper didn’t survive, why has no trace ever been found, and what about the cash bundles in the sandbar with the missing notes? The mysteries have attracted many curious and credulous minds, and theories abound.

The distinctive tie pin worn by Cooper was analysed by amateur sleuths and found to contain minute traces of titanium, a material used in the advanced sector of the airline industry at the time. This pointed the finger at a potential link to a Boeing employee, however Cooper’s intimate knowledge of the Boeing 727 would have indicated the same thing, and no Boeing employee was ever implicated. Also, given the precise details of Cooper’s physical appearance provide by air crew, any Boeing employee with the slightest resemblance to Cooper would immediately have been a suspect.

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Tom Colbert, another would-be detective who maintains a website,, claimed to have found a frayed, 45cm piece of what was possibly fire-retardant fabric in a mound of dirt in the potential drop zone, leading to suggestions this might be from a military parachute. Media outlets jumped on this “ground-breaking discovery” with unbridled enthusiasm, yet linking this so-called “new evidence” with Cooper taxes all credibility, not to mention the inconvenient fact that Cooper did not jump with a military ‘chute.

In July 2016, the FBI announced that it was closing the book on D. B. Cooper, with the option to re-open the case should any legitimate physical evidence come forward. Its 60-volume case file compiled over the 45-year investigation has been preserved for historical purposes.

One outcome of the Cooper hijacking was a couple of changes in aircraft design. One was the “Cooper vane”, an aerodynamic wedge that uses wind pressure to prevent an aft stairwell from being deployed inflight. The other was a mandatory peephole in the cockpit door.





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Get £20 off your next flight with the Air France app

Category : General

Get £20 off your next flight with the Air France app

By Ofonime Essien

Air France app

Air France is encouraging travellers to download its mobile app, by offering a discount on your next long-haul flight.

Apple and Android users who download the app, and make a booking before the end of October, will receive £20 off their flight.

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To qualify customers must book an economy, premium economy or business class ticket, for outbound and return travel by March 14, 2018, on any Air France-operated long-haul service, valid for departures from London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

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The carrier says that users downloading the app will see a welcome message containing the discount code, which must be entered on the personal information page during checkout.

(Air France)






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Pilot Who Donated Kidney to Sick Father

Pilot Who Donated Kidney to Sick Father

By Ofonime Essien

Kidney donorThe thought of losing a father was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to Frances Nagatalevu.

It was back in 2010, her father was sick and needed a kidney. His two elder daughters were pregnant and his only son, Frances’ twin, was asthmatic. So it all came down to his third daughter and pilot, Frances, to give a kidney to their father.

Frances hopes sharing her story will be a lesson to others who take family for granted. She said she was able to do what was necessary through the grace of God.

“We spent three months in India, we were basically temporary residents,” Frances said.

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“This was one of my toughest times, the thought of losing my father was the scariest thing ever. But everything happens for a reason and for us, it brought us closer as a family and closer to God.

“The power of prayer, you’ll be amazed at what the Lord can do for you if you put your faith in Him.”

While in India, she was interviewed to determine whether she was giving her kidney on her own free will. One of the questions focused on the possibility of her not carrying on as a pilot.

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“I just told them, ‘I will find something else to do’. I’ve always wanted to do marine science.

“But I can now say I’m a pilot with one kidney,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t get here by my own strength. It’s by the grace of God I get to do what I love to do and that is flying.”

The Rakiraki, Yale, Kadavu native who has maternal links to Ogea, Lau said they had gone through so much as a family but she thanked God for everything He had done for their family.

Her father was a senior air traffic controller back then and so the young Frances spent most of her days at the CAAF (Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji) quarters in Nadi with her siblings.

Frances had a dream and that was to be a marine biologist as she loved the ocean. However, her parents offered to pay for her fees to attend flying school.

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“After my first flight, I never looked back, I knew this is what I wanted to do.

“Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is a challenge. If men can do it, what is stopping women? I’m a very competitive person, I like a challenge. Like my uncle always says, ‘if the sky is the limit, then to me the limit is the sky’.”

If there was someone Frances would like to dedicate her achievements to, it would not be one but two people, as her parents have been her source of inspiration.

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“My parents mean the world to me and the meaning of success to me personally is making them proud, nothing satisfies me more than putting a smile on their faces.

“They worked hard every day just so we could have a better life than they did. So everything I do now is for them.”

Frances loves her career, she loves flying, she loves taking on challenges and treasures every moment of her career because they help her to look forward to every day and to what life has to offer.

“If I was to give advice about looking for a career, it would be ‘whatever makes you happy’.

“I suffered a lot of ups and downs. But who hasn’t? Just get back up and dust yourself off.

“God has a plan for everyone, we just need to trust Him.”

(Fiji Times)








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‘Daddy, I’ll Be A Pilot!’ And He Was Only 4 Years Old

‘Daddy, I’ll Be A Pilot!’ And He Was Only 4 Years Old

By Femi Adesina

Pilot dream

Be careful what you dream about, it may well come to pass. Oluwatobi is my firstborn, “my might, and the beginning of my strength.” One day, when he was just four years old, we were all in the living room; myself, his mom, and his sister, when he exclaimed: “Daddy, I’ll be a pilot!”

I looked at him, looked at his mother, and said casually: “What does he know about piloting?” For by then, Oluwatobi had not gone near an airport, not to talk of entering an airplane.

But somehow, what he said refused to leave my mind. Just like the biblical Mary, after the angel told her of the virgin conception, I “kept all those things, and pondered them” in my heart.

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‘Tobi (as we call him) began to live his dreams. He needed to see only the picture of an airplane in a newspaper or magazine, and he would cut it, file it away, or paste on the wall of his bedroom. When he was old enough to manipulate a computer, he always went to sites where he could read about aircraft.

I had thought he would outgrow the passion. But the older he grew, the firmer and clearer the dream became. “Daddy, I’ll be a pilot!”

As a growing journalist with growing means, I got to the point I could go on vacation with my family once a year. We started with Ghana. Then South Africa. And London… Tobi was in secondary school, and talked about nothing save flying a plane. Each time we travelled, it was like nirvana. While I kept looking at my wristwatch, expecting the time we would land, my son, and his sister, Tosin, felt completely at home in the sky.

I had expected two people to baulk, and talk Tobi out of his dreams. His mother, and my own mother (Tobi’s grandma, whom he was particularly close to). But the two women surprisingly did not dissuade the boy. They submitted to the perfect will of the Almighty. Underneath are the Everlasting Arms.

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Never underestimate the power of dreams. At 18, my son packed his baggage, and was on the way to Aeronav Academy, in South Africa. The fees were staggering, but by then, I was Deputy Managing Director/ Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Newspapers. The pay was good enough, and with some belt tightening and lots of sacrifice, I could afford the fees.

Tobi got to Johannesburg at the peak of winter. “A cold coming we had of it, just the worst time of the year. For a journey, and such a long journey, the ways deep and the weather sharp, the very dead of winter.” (T.S Eliot, The Journey of the Magi). I remember the first email he sent to me: “Daddy, it’s so cold, I had to sleep with my shoes on.” Lol. My heart went out to him, but he that would eat honey from the rock must never consider the blade of his axe.

By the end of his first year, he got the private pilot license. Second year, he got the commercial license. I was breathing like a hog under the financial burden, but didn’t Jesus promise that his yoke was easy, “and my burden is light?” I kept trudging on, and one day, at age 21, my son was back, a fully licensed pilot.

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But there was still one more river to cross. And when he told me about it, I almost bolted (just as our President almost did, when he saw the state of the treasury after inauguration into office). Tobi told me of the need to proceed to Sweden, for a type rating license, in which he would specialize on the Boeing 737. A boy of 21 years, planning to fly a whole house in the sky? The money, in dollars, sent my heart racing, and my head spinning. But by then, I was already Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun. The publisher was a welfarist, and he took good care of his staff. If the family would take garri, instead of corn flakes, well, we could send Tobi to Sweden. And off he went, coming back months later with a type rating license. Arik Airline gracefully gave him a job.

For almost two years, the young pilot has been plying his trade, but he never flew me. The closest we got was one Saturday morning, about a year ago. I had just landed in Lagos, and who did I meet on the tarmac? Tobi and the crew that was taking over the airplane for the next flight. Safe skies, I told him, after we had taken some pictures, along with Captain Mohammed, an Arik veteran.

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Then D-day came. And it was Monday this week. I had gone to Lagos to be part of Father’s Day celebration in my church, Foursquare Gospel Church, which held on Sunday. Return journey was 7 a.m Monday, aboard Arik.

On Sunday night, Tobi told me: “Daddy, you’ll be on my flight back to Abuja tomorrow.” Great expectations.

I approached the aircraft with Mr Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, and an old friend. An airline staff collected my hand luggage, and took it onboard. I then offered to relieve the former governor of the burden of his own luggage. Trust the ever self-effacing man. He hid the bag behind his back, as I made for it. We laughed.

I was on Seat 1D. The former governor was directly behind me. I told him my son was the co-pilot, and he was so very happy and excited at the news. And then, who came in, and took Seat 1F, right beside me? Another gentleman and friend, Mr Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. We began to chat about the economy, and the risks falling oil prices in the international market could pose to the steadying exchange rate of the dollar to the naira. That was when Tobi struck. He came out from the cockpit, and said the Captain had consented that I should be their guest throughout the flight.

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I first declined. Flying in the air was tough enough, who wants to go and frighten himself to death in a cockpit?

“Daddy, come and see what you paid for. Come and see where your money went,” my son said. I introduced him to the CBN governor, and excused myself from the cabin. The co-pilot to the co-pilot had come. Father and son were in the cockpit.

Captain Carretero Alberto hails from Spain. And what a genial man he turned out to be throughout the 55 minutes flight. I got to know about his family, his professional background, and many others. He had kind words to say about Tobi, and, indeed gave him the thumbs up sign many times, as the young pilot flew the plane, and made what he considered smart moves.

Preparing to lift into the air was a whole set of ceremony. Many things to check. Engines, lights, wings, doors, everything. As Tobi handled the joystick, the joy kiln was kindled in the heart of a proud father.

Communication with the control tower was continuous, and lasted almost throughout the flight. As the plane lifted, and soared into the deep, azure sky, I could not see a thing. Not the foggiest thing. How do pilots do it? But there was a forest of buttons and knobs. They kept touching and pressing them. Is this what they call instrumentation? At a point, the sun streamed in powerfully, in all its brightness. And they fixed their sun visors. “This is why pilots wear sunglasses,” Tobi told me.

As the journey progressed, memories flooded in. The plane was moving forward, but I was going back in time. I remembered that June 25, when unto me a child was born, and unto the Adesinas a son was given. When I got to the hospital, and he was brought out for me to have a look, I remember the yell he gave. Now, the tot of that day is flying a Boeing 737. What will he fly next, a 747 or Dreamliner? The wonders of our God.

Then I chuckled. What did I remember? When Tosin, my daughter was born. Tobi was already three. He had not seen as much soft drinks as on the naming ceremony day. He drank Coke, Fanta, Pepsi, Sprite, everything. Then later, he came to meet me: “Daddy, my tomach (that was how he called it) is paining me. ” I laughed, and asked why his tomach would not pain him, as I had seen him, mixing the drinks? Now, the boy is flying a plane.

I chuckled again. What is it this time? The time he was going to secondary school. A day before resumption, I had taken him to Ikeja, where we bought a pair of boots, which would be part of the school uniform. We barely got home before Tobi slipped into the boots, and for the rest of the evening, he strutted round the house in the jackboot. It was yeoman’s effort to get him to remove it at bedtime. Even then, he put the boots daintily on his bed, throughout the night.

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And then, the winter night he slept with his shoes on, in Johannesburg. Lol.
Soon, the plane swung right. And Tobi pointed the runway of the Abuja airport to me. We had begun to descend earlier, and would land in eight minutes. At the dot of that time, he brought the big bird gently onto the runway. What an experience for a father!

Since that Monday, when I posted the pictures of father and son on Facebook, the thanksgiving on our behalf has been overwhelming. I thank everyone who commented, and prayed for us. May your day of joy not be postponed. Amen.

My friend and brother, Onochie Anibeze, editor of Saturday Vanguard,  asked for this write up exclusively for his newspaper. I was glad to oblige. Gloating is not one of the reasons I went public about my joy. Far from it. Rather, it is out of thankfulness to God. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony.” Glad to talk about the wonders of our God.

This is my story, this is my song. May every father have cause to rejoice in his son. And on the day of that joy, may the fathers not have toothache.
I can hear the amen. Oh, glory to God.

Adesina is Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity.






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The Rejected Flight Attendant Who Started Her Own Airline

The Rejected Flight Attendant Who Started Her Own Airline

By Ofonime Essien

Sibongile Sambo

Sibongile Sambo, Founder, SRS Aviation Africa

When Sibongile Sambo, a 42-year old woman from South Africa, was told by South African Airways that she did not qualify for a flight attendant position because she did not meet their minimum height requirement, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

She became an entrepreneur, and started her very own airline called SRS Aviation, and until this day, her company is the only Black woman-owned and operated aviation company in Africa.

So, how did she do it?

Starting an airline is not an easy or cheap thing to do, but despite this, she was still able to get it off the ground.

First, she formed her company and gave it the name of SRS Aviation. Then, she bid and won a contract for cargo transport issued by the South African government and formed a partnership with MCC Aviation – a South African-based fixed & rotor wing charter operator.

Finally, she sold her car and cashed out her mother’s pension to help her obtain an Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SA CAA). It wasn’t an easy process, but she was able to raise the needed capital and make it work!

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Now, Sambo’s company offers their clients professional and personalized flight options to destinations in Africa and around the world. Their services include VIP charters, tourist charters, cargo charters, game count & capture, and helicopter services. Her customers pay anywhere from $1,000 USD to $200,000 USD per flight.

Her vision

Sambo’s vision is to be the number one choice in affordable air service solutions for individuals and businesses, locally and worldwide, by providing an unparalleled air service. She also aims to uphold the highest safety standards.

When it comes to giving back to her local community, she is also very passionate about helping young people by sharing her knowledge and expertise.

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During a recent interview with CNN, she commented, “I’m where I am today because somebody invested in me. It’s my opportunity now to invest in other people.”








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Vanishing jetliners should soon be a thing of the past

Vanishing jetliners should soon be a thing of the past

By Ofonime Essien

vanishing jetliners

Possible debris from the missing passenger jet MH370. Two US companies say their satellite-based tracking systems would prevent planes from vanishing over international waters. AFP

Two US companies have developed an airline tracking system designed to prevent planes disappearing in the manner of the Malaysia Airlines MH370, which vanished two years ago when contact was lost with it somewhere over the vast Indian Ocean region.

Instead of sending tracking signals to ground stations – which means planes’ locations can be lost over oceans or remote areas – the new system would beam them to satellites.

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“It doesn’t matter if they’re flying over the ocean, desert, or North Pole, we’ll know where the plane is,” said Daniel Baker, the chief executive of FlightAware, the internet flight tracking service that is working with Aireon, which has developed the satellite technology.

Aireon’s system will place ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast) receivers on low-orbit satellites operated by Iridium Communications and is due to be operational from 2018. The system was initially conceived to help air traffic controllers route planes more efficiently.

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The new tracking system, called GlobalBeacon, will make the location data from the space-based receivers available to airlines so they can track their planes in near real-time on a Web-based tool.

After the disappearance of MH370 in March 2014, regulators and airlines were criticised for responding too slowly to French tracking recommendations after the crash of an Air France plane in 2009.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) plans to impose a 15-minute standard for normal flight tracking, or more frequently in case of emergency, by November 2018.

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FlightAware said it would reveal the first airline customer for the product next week, to coincide with an ICAO meeting in Montreal.

“We only reached out to a few of our dozens of airline customers to discuss this opportunity and although all are interested in using our space-based ADS-B data, only one could hit the tight timeline for our announcement,” Mr Baker said.











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By Kelechi Eze & Ofonime Essien


Nigerian Pilots

Nigerian Pilots marching during a Graduation Ceremony

This is a missive to address the issues that have confronted me as an unemployed pilot with no job experience in Nigeria. I will delve into matters only within my scope of experience and reach even though I am no expert in the aviation industry, I can say I am an expert in the field of pilot unemployment.

From where I look, it appears that the Nigerian Aviation Industry is in shambles; While it may periodically receive jolts of life (new airlines and expansion within standing ones) these do little to raise this near-dead goliath. A giant felled from the stone that mismanagement shot. The industry is moribund, with hundreds of unemployed and underemployed pilots, engineers and technicians laying about without hope. In fact, the NCAA once published that they have issued over seven thousand (7000) licenses but only about two thousand and five hundred (2500) of those are current, meaning these are the only ones currently in use for employment purposes. This points to the possibility of an even higher number of unemployed pilots than previously thought.

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The truth is that there is much that is wrong in the industry because many businesses are struggling to stay ahead of mounting loans from ever sceptical banks and stringent regulations which do as much harm as good to the industry. Therefore, pressing measures should be undertaken to resuscitate the industry.


The universally accepted measure of experience in the global aviation industry is practice hours (flying hours) and that yardstick is the same for us here is Nigeria too. The higher the hours of practice for pilots and engineers, the better regarded and more trusted they are. It is for this reason that insurance companies make benchmarks for pilots and co-pilots to adhere to in order for them to better safeguard their investments and ensure a higher standard of operation. An unwritten agreement for a minimum of 1500 hours and 500 hours are required for captains and co-pilots respectively, in many countries all over the world.

However, fresh graduates from aviation schools (I speak for pilots solely in this instance) receive somewhere between 200-300 hours of total training hours for airplane pilots and between 150-200 hours of total training hours for helicopter pilots throughout their tutelage,  therefore, a deficit in practice hours exists for these new graduates making them less than ideal for employment. Technically, they are still employable but as I earlier mentioned employers are more comfortable taking on more experienced pilots. This situation presents a serious quagmire for fresh pilots leading those fresh graduates with means to “buy” hours by paying for them or utilize their connections to gain employment with their meagre qualifications.

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So the options available to new pilots remain to either spend more money to increase their flying hours by hiring a plane or helicopter and paying per hour, use the ever present “connection” or test the waters with their sparse CVs. Coupled with the steady stream of foreign and more experienced pilots who troop into the country to compete for jobs that the locals cannot qualify for, the competition is currently slaughtering Nigerians.


The order of the day is a call for the reestablishment of the national carrier airline as an antidote to our presently ailing industry. Whilst I am excited for this news, I cannot help but to objectively assess our situation as to be beyond the cure of one single airline. Even the most optimistic observer cannot deny the astronomical costs this airline will gulp, not to mention the equally mammoth sums that will be required to launch and maintain such till it breaks even financially. With industries in Nigeria witnessing a crunch in one form or the other owing to the monumental dip in oil prices as well as the political realignment of the government, every penny that can be saved should be. The order of the day will be “effective” as opposed to “massive” spending.

This is why I am wholly convinced that a national carrier as well other large scale investments MIGHT not be the best way to go, and they will produce more of the same results for many local pilots. It MIGHT turn out to be a typical case of treating the symptom as opposed to the disease itself. These ‘low-hour’ pilots will remain unemployable unless the airline is willing to invest even more time and money in these low-timers.

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That said, it would be a major boost to Nigeria’s profile for her to maintain a national carrier, which I am certain will increase traffic for, at least, tourism and international business collaborations.


I would recommend that General Aviation (GA) be bolstered up. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) defines GA as “an aircraft operation of a civil aircraft other than a commercial air transport operation or aerial work operation.” This simply means any aviation dealing asides airliners, corporate and luxury business jets charters and the likes, is general aviation. This means that General aviation is ANY airplane business that in NOT an airline. So examples of GA would be tour flights, training, aerial photography, pipeline inspection, banner towing, crop dusting and skydiving etc. GA has a very notable hallmark which is its use of small short-range airplanes for small scale businesses, making it more affordable compared to the high cost of the regular airlines.


The most pronounced characteristic of General Aviation (GA) is its cheapness as against other aviation businesses. It costs a fraction of what it takes to buy one airline aircraft to set up normal GA operation. Small planes which have long lifespans and little maintenance overhead have prices comparable to cars. They are the key drivers of such businesses so these businesses can afford to hire pilots with low hours. In fact that is mostly what they can afford, considering their small size and profits.

Ideally, pilots and engineers can begin working in these small companies and then accumulate more hours and experience which makes them more suitable for bigger businesses and operations. In doing so, Nigeria can be assured of a steady stream of better experienced pilots who have cut their teeth in actual labour and have confidence in their skills. It will also help Nigerian aviators get employment and experience in other countries, which can help us expand our knowledge base as well as strengthen cultural ties with other nations.

The potentials for GA to improve the economy are too numerous and far reaching, as shown in the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) issued report for 2014 and 2015 forecast, GA is currently a $219 billion industry in the United States alone and supports 1.1 million jobs in the same country. Manufacturing plays a massive role in this colossal market, and Africa is still virgin territory. With the right input, the entire sub-Saharan general aviation market would have to stem from here in Nigeria. In truth, only South Africa uses general aviation to any degree of importance in Africa, and it provides for 2.1% of their GDP.

Read also: Help Is On The Way

Other than financial, the addition to local content would be enormous. GA can resuscitate Nigeria’s pride, the Air Beetle, an airplane which was manufactured and fabricated locally till it could no longer operate. Also schools for aviation technology would not be far to imagine seeing as they come hand in hand with a functional and boisterous GA.


1. Review the landing and take-off costs for airplanes under 12,600 lbs, or the NCAA may provide a list of preferred aircrafts for GA use which the NCAA will reduce airport fees for, as long as they are registered in Nigeria.

2. The Federal Government, or even states, can make allocations for short strips for runways, whether controlled or uncontrolled. A minimum of three of such airfields should be located in each state. A public/private partnership will be best in our clime to ensure that maintenance is not overlooked either.

3. Relax the requirements for aviation business registration for small-scale businesses, or create an avenue for GA businesses to start and progress without needing to acquire the top heavy structures of actual airlines, also a review of the policy guiding the private ownership of aircrafts for non-commercial purposes.

4. Require the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the National Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to maintain a fleet of small inexpensive planes with which they can monitor pipelines as well as rapidly respond to emergencies where they may arise.

5. Demand the NCAA to live up to its responsibilities of providing regulatory oversight on aviation operations and make these regulations public on a functional website. Information such as area charts and airport information MUST be made available and aslo well updated.

6. Make concessions such as tax exemptions to particular businesses within the GA scope such as schools, which can stem the tide of fleeing Forex which is caused by monies leaving Nigeria to pay for fees in foreign countries.

7. Border patrolling for and with the Nigerian Custom Service as well as the Nigerian Army is also a possibility. Keep in mind these small and nimble planes can serve in multiple ways; deliver payloads and packages to destinations where bigger planes cannot, survey areas and assess situations, and they cost a fraction of the drones that can deliver those functions.

8. Finally, support the push to introduce a regulation that requires a Nigerian member of crew for ANY aircraft operating within Nigeria, whether it be registered or not.

The authors, Mr. Kelechi Eze, can be reached on his email: and Mr. Ofonime Essien on









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Help Is On the Way

Help Is On the Way

By Ofonime Essien

help is on the way

Photo: Large Family Mothering

If you pray for a miracle and God doesn’t give you one, you can be a miracle to other people.

On 21st August, 2012, I left Abuja, Nigeria for a US $97,700.00 (N16,132,050.00) helicopter flight training with US $1,212.00 (N200,000.00) in my bank account believing that help was on the way.

 Helping a Friend in Need

As I was preparing for flight school, a close friend came to me crying. She had lost weight because of over thinking. Her marriage was announced in church but had to be postponed without a new date fixed because of funds. The funds her fiancé was expecting to carry out the marriage rights didn’t come through.

Read more: Why You Should Always Bolt Your Hotel Door

Rumour mongers went to town with speculation that they were no longer together. This caused her sleepless nights. She needed somebody to pour out her heart to. When a woman tells you her problems, it does not mean that she is complaining. It means she trusts you. She knew I was looking for money for my Pilot training, as such wasn’t expecting any financial help from me. As I watched her cry like a baby and feeling helpless, I was moved in my spirit to do something. They just needed some money to start. I intervened and helped.

I dipped hands into my savings and donated US $ 909.09 (N150,000.00) from the US $ 2,121.21 (N350,000.00) I had saved towards my pilot training. I had reasoned that the money I released will not stop me from going for the course. And it didn’t. That gift was like US $6,060.61 (N1,000,000.00) to them. Today, they are happily married with two (2) lovely children. I empathize with people easily. I always believe, “What you make happen for others, God will make happen for you”. Zig Ziglar, an American author and motivational speaker, once said, “You can have everything you want in life, if you will just help other people get what they want”.

While Waiting For Help

I mentioned in my article, How I Became a Helicopter Pilot, that I was training three (3) people in school and supporting another while in flying school. I had to support the fourth (4th) person because of the faith she had in me. Till date, I don’t know how she got my number though, she told me she stole it from her Madam’s phone. I ate in their restaurant in Jebba, Nigeria when I was there on official assignment. She said, “My spirit told me I will be able to get help from you if I can get close to you, the day you came to eat in our restaurant”. Sometimes, we have people who believe in us more than we believe in ourselves. I was moved by her faith in me and had to help in my own little way.

When the going was really tough while in flying school, I used to wonder why God didn’t send me help despite the number of people I had helped. I had been there for people in their time of need but wondered why there was none to help me. I used to tell my friend, Mrs. Udeme Iboro Otoho that I will never help anybody again in life if I struggle and finish the course without any help. She would say, “Don’t worry, help is coming. Keep trusting God”. God bless you, Mma.

Read more: Passenger kicked off plane for taking pictures of Flight Attendant’s Buttocks’

One night while sleeping, I saw my Pastor and Father in the Lord, Dr. Paul Enenche, Senior Pastor, Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Abuja – Nigeria, I mentioned my challenge to him. He said, “It has been taken care of”. I knew, “Help was indeed on the way”. When I woke up, I went into praise mode. I thanked God for the revelation and for the help that was on the way. God did send help and it came from an unexpected quarters.

While I waited for help to come, I used to listen to Whitney Houston song, Hold On, Help is on the Way and to Bishop T.D. Jakes message, Help is on the Way. The song and the message keep reminding me to hold on a little longer, that help was on the way.

Friends Abandoned Me

When I told a friend about my Pilot vision, he said, “If it is God that gave you the vision, He knows, he is the one He will use to make the vision come to pass”. I thanked him. I was very happy because I knew he was in a good position to help. Unfortunately, he didn’t help in anyway when I needed help.

One invited me to Uyo, Nigeria to facilitate a meeting with the then Commissioner for Finance, Senator Bassey Albert but switched off his phone after informing him that I was in Uyo till I left three (3) days later. I took days off from training for nothing. I wasted my time, my resources and risk my life travelling by road for nothing.

Read more: Overcoming Setbacks and Difficulties

The other collected US $212.12 (N35,000.00) to buy a bottle of wine to go and welcome the then Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government (SSG), Chief Umana Okon Umana from his holiday. All he did after collecting the money was take me to the gate of Umana’s official residence in Uyo. The Security Officer he left me with said, “Sir, if he wants you to see the SSG, he knows what to do”. God didn’t abandon me but friends did.

Never Put Your Trust in Man

Are you going through difficulties and there are people God has put in your life that could be of help but are not helping? I have learnt not to put my trust in man. Sometimes, God prevent certain people in your life from helping you so that you don’t begin to worship them. God doesn’t want such people to take His glory in your life. Had my friend helped, I would have concluded that without his help, I wouldn’t have finished my pilot training.

Never put your trust in man because he will disappoint you. Put your trust and hope in God, He never fails. He will send you help no matter how bad or hopeless the situation might be. He will make a way for you. He will make the impossible, possible if you believe and trust Him as your Lord and Saviour.

Be There For People

You never know what someone is going through. A few nice words can help a person a lot more than you think.

In my earlier article, This Too, Shall Pass, DSP Odekina M. Danladi, on 24th April, 2013, packed his bag believing that he has come to the end of his flight training in Enugu, Nigeria. While Odekina believed that it was all over, God had a different plan. He sent him help that night. Today, Odekina is a Police Helicopter Pilot and a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) because of the help and mercies of God.

If you are privileged to help people, please do, God will reward you. Les Brown, an American motivational speaker and author, once said, “Help others achieve their dream and you will achieve yours.” If you see people drowning, help even if you cannot swim. Say yes to people before they ask. What you make happen for others, God will make happen for you.


I might not know what you are going through today: the sorrow, the hardship, unemployment, job loss, the struggles, the pains, sickness, heart break, business failure, disappointment or the loss of a loved one. And though the situation has turned your smiles upside down. Faithful is He that promised and it shall come to pass. Don’t give up. It shall be well. Never ever give up, no matter how hopeless. No matter what you are going through, hang in there, help is coming.

I don’t know how long you have to wait before help comes, before you land that dream job, before that man or woman you so desire in your life comes, before the much needed change in your life happens, before you receive healing for your sickness, before that business deal clicks or before you receive consolation for your loss. No matter how long it will take, don’t give up, don’t despair because if you keep going, soon your storm will be over and the sun will shine over your face again.

I pray: May God give you a rainbow for every storm, a smile for every tears, a relief for every sigh, a blessing for each trial and an answer to every prayer. God bless you. Stay strong, help is on the way!
















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This Too, Shall Pass

This Too, Shall Pass

By Ofonime Essien

This Too

Photo: Wooden U Recover

Training in International Helicopter Flying School (IHFS), Enugu – Nigeria was very challenging. We were the pioneer students of the school and originally thirty (30) students. Two (2) students didn’t make the course after ground school because they lacked the knowledge required for the course. Another two (2) students were dropped during the flying phase for attitude problem and other issues. The three (3) basic attributes one needs to be a Pilot are: Knowledge, Attitude and Skills.

The students came from different background. Some had never seen an aircraft or ride in one before. Everybody struggled with one thing or another during the course.

Hovering Fever

To fly is human, to hover divine. Learning how to hover is at once incredibly frustrating and magical. Hovering is the most difficult part of helicopter flying. When you get it right, the feeling of being suspended just a few feet off the ground completely motionless is epic. The problem is that when you first start, those moments are fleeting.

Hovering is when the helicopter is flown so that it maintains a constant position over the ground. It is the main capability which differentiates helicopters from airplanes. Hovering exercise was a major challenge to many students. Some hovered after drinking a proverbial “hovering juice” from their Flight Instructor.

Read also: EgyptAir Flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo crashed

Learning how to hover a helicopter may be the ultimate example of how repeated failures can eventually lead to success as long as one persists, overcomes their fears, and does not give up. You have probably heard the saying that failure is part of success. You will fail repeatedly while trying to learn to hover the helicopter. But if you don’t give up, you will succeed. The breakthrough will come quicker for some than others, but most people can learn to hover in about 3-4-5 hours.  It still won’t be pretty but you will be able to keep the helicopter in a particular area with little drifting. We all struggled at one stage of the training or the other.

Running Away From Training

The course was so intense that two (2) students packed their bags and wanted to run away from the training. They couldn’t cope with the stress and demands of the training. And one of them was always crying at the onset of his flight training. His idea of flying was that he will just show up in flying school and after some months walk away with his flying licenses. How wrong he was! He didn’t envisage the stress of learning flight procedures, chair flying or walk flying while preparing for the next flight.

Chair Flying

Chair Flying Photo: Capt. Phillips Enejoh












Walk Flying

Walk Flying











Everybody knew about the pilot that wanted to run away and the day he wanted to dash. Nobody knew about the second one except me. I knew about it because God miraculously used me to save his flying career. It is the second person nobody knew wanted to abandon his flight training I am writing about. You will get to meet him in this article.

 I am Dan and You?


Odekina M. Danladi receiving a scroll from the former Vice President of Nigeria, Arc. Namadi Sambo during a graduation ceremony

I invite you to meet Mr. Dan. Dan is the code name he was using to operate while in Enugu, Nigeria especially when he met a lady for the first time. He will introduce himself: “I am Dan and you?” The lady hearing Dan will wrongly assume “Daniel” not knowing Dan to him was “Danladi”.

Meet Mr. Odekina M. Dandali, a Helicopter Pilot with the Air Wing Unit of the Nigeria Police Force. He is a smart and intelligent Superior Police Officer. He is a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP). He had served before in Operations arm of the Force before being posted to Air Wing Unit of the Nigeria Police Force. He started his flying career in 2009 when the Nigeria Police Force sent him with nine (9) others to Moscow, Russia for flight training. On arriving in Moscow, they had to learn the Russian language before commencing their flight training. They spent two (2) years without starting the flight training and had to return to Nigeria due to logistics reason.

Read also: My First Helicopter Flight Experience

In August 2012, he was part of the ten (10) students the Nigeria Police Force sent to International Helicopter Flying School (IHFS), Enugu – Nigeria for ten (10) months Integrated Helicopter Pilot training. Odekina was active during the ground school. He showed some level of knowledge during this phase of the training but in the flying phase, he struggled seriously. His flying skills were in doubt.

The Days of Solo

The day of first solo flight is one of the happiest days in the life of a Student Pilot. It is the day a Flight Instructor and Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) certify that the Student Pilot can fly on his / her own without an Instructor in the aircraft. The CFI certifies that the Student Pilot will go and come back safely.

The then Rector, Group Captain Ayo Jolasinmi constantly reminded the students that they were not in competition with one another and that they should be themselves and go at their own pace. Because we were a group of twenty (28) students, a lot of students felt the pressure when they perceived that other students were ahead and they were lagging behind. When the first student, Flight Lieutenant Dania Albert, went solo on the 9th of March, 2013, the pressure became enormous.

Mr. Odekina M. Danladi, on 24th April, 2013, packed his bag believing that he has come to the end of his flight training in Enugu, Nigeria. He had informed his family and loved ones about his decision. He could no longer cope with the training. Despite having several flying hours, his situation remained the same. One day after joining to fly with the then Rector / Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), who happened to be his last bus stop, he gave him a bible verse in Proverbs to meditate upon. The DPE felt Odekina needed spiritual help too in order to progress in the course.

Read also: The Day I Cried in Flying School

Odekina was very impulsive during this period in his decisions as a Student Pilot. Because of his situation, the school informed his sponsor that he will need extra flying hours to finish the course. The Nigeria Police Force approved 25 extra hours for his training. In spite of this, Odekina couldn’t go solo after accumulating about 35 hours 45 minutes and didn’t see a way out. The real problem was that he puts so much pressure on himself because he felt he should have been the first student pilot to go solo. He felt something was wrong with him. His problem was self-inflicted. Hence, his decision to quit.

His plan was to leave the Student Pilot (SP) quarters as early as 4:00am. He planned to destroy his sim cards so that nobody could reach him. He didn’t see any other way of finishing the course. He felt he has disappointed himself and his family. He felt he has disappointed his sponsor by not finishing the course after his sponsor had invested so much in his training. He packed all his belongings and waited for day to break.

Learning Plateau

That night, Odekina had accepted defeat. He concluded that it was no longer worth the trouble. He had reached a learning plateau. He had reached a point where his progress was slower than normal.

A beginning student reaches a point where additional practice is not only unproductive, but may be harmful. When this point is reached, errors increase and motivation declines.  Learning plateaus are a common source of frustration, discouragement and decreased student motivation.

 God’s Help / Intervention

While Odekina believed it was all over, God had a different plan. He sent him help that night. At about 10:30pm, I felt the urge to go talk to Odekina about his situation and to encourage him but felt it was a bit late. I decided to see him the following day. I felt the urge again after some time. I listened to my spirit a lot. I got up, went and visited Mr. Odekina M. Danladi that night. I spoke with him and encouraged him. I asked him to keep fighting and not leave Enugu, Nigeria without the licenses he came for. I had no idea that he had planned to leave. I had no idea the impact my visit had on him that night until one year, six months later.

Read also: How I Became a Helicopter Pilot

The following day, I showed and gave him a copy of a picture I downloaded online before going to Enugu. One line from the picture, “This too, shall pass”, made so much impact on him. He began to see things differently and maintained a positive attitude. He wrote those words on his doors, room, bedside, wardrobe, standing mirror, on the wall of his reading table, on his toilet wall and most importantly, he wrote it on the wall of his heart. He kept saying the phrase all the time. He kept saying those words to the point other students started saying the phrase too whenever they see him. The phrase caught on. A week later, 3rd May, 2013, Odekina went solo.

This is the picture I showed him:


 Thanks for Coming

On 7th September, 2014, I arrived Enugu, Nigeria for our graduation ceremony on the 19th September, 2014. The school had asked us to report for pre-graduation activities. I arrived in the evening and had to wait for the guy that had the key to my apartment. I went round to see my colleagues who were on ground. Odekina was on ground, so I ended up spending more time with him till the guy with my apartment key showed up. Odekina escorted me to my apartment. After staying for a while, he started talking. He started, “Emmmm Emmmm”. He said, “Oga Essien, do you remember the night you came to my room?” I told him no because I had gone to his apartment on many occasions in the night. He asked, “Do you remember this particular night you came to talk to me concerning my flight challenges?” I said, “Yes”. He said, “You were God sent”.

Read also: Overcoming Setbacks and Difficulties

He added, “I had packed all my belongings that night and was waiting to leave the Air Force Base as early as 4:00 am the following morning. I planned to throw away my sim cards so that nobody can reach me. I planned to drop the books and the laptop I was issued so that nobody will look for me because of those. I had informed my family about the decision. They were expecting me but when they didn’t see me, they called to check on me. I told them I had a change of plan. I am a Pilot today because of you. Thanks for coming”.

The Lord’s Doing

I told him it was the Lord’s doing but He had to pass through me to tell him to persevere, to hang on in order to achieve his dream of becoming a Helicopter Pilot. I had to remind him about what His words say in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning”.

I am happy that I went to see Odekina that night and am also happy that God used me to save a colleague’s career. Be there for people. Lend a helping hand whenever you can. Say yes to people before they ask. If you see people drowning, help even if you can’t swim.


One of the hardest decisions you will ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder. When you feel like quitting, think about why you started. When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. Your problem is not really the problem but your attitude towards the problem that is the problem.

Odekina’s problems didn’t just melt away but his attitude towards his problems changed. He saw things differently. He consulted and asked for advice when the need arises. Today, he is a Police Helicopter Pilot.

Odekina’s dreams of becoming a Helicopter Pilot and a Superior Police Officer has come true. Today, the sun is shining. The sky is blue. The dreams have come true. No matter what you are going through, hold on just a little longer because, if you give up now, you will never know what could have been. This Too, Shall Pass!





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The Kung Fu Cabin Crew

The Kung Fu Cabin Crew

By Ofonime Essien

  • Flight attendants perform martial arts on a 6,560ft mountain ledge as part of their aviation school ‘bravery training’
  • The young women followed the instructions of a Taoist kung fu master
  • ‘Bravery training’ was organised on the peaks of China’s Laojun Mountain
  • Feat was part of a promotion for their company and for the local landscape 
Three Young Women

Three young women followed the instructions of a Taoist kung fu master as they sought to toughen up

Stunning and bizarre photos from China have revealed the latest training and promotional techniques of aviation schools as a group of flight attendants performed martial arts on a mountain top.

Dressed in formal blue uniforms and only missing their high heels, the young women followed the instructions of a Taoist kung fu master as they sought to toughen their resolve.

Read also: Royal Brunei Airlines Makes History with All Female Crews

The ‘bravery training’ was organised more than 6,560 feet above sea level, on the peaks of China’s famous Laojun Mountain, located in the city of Luoyang, in central Henan Province.

Bravery training

‘Bravery training’ was organised more than 6,560ft above sea level, on the peaks of China’s Laojun Mountain

The cabin crew members were guided by a Taoist priest, dressed in black, who demonstrated poses and techniques of martial arts.

The three models and flight attendants tiptoed their way across the mountaintop for the stunning photoshoot.

Read also: Risky Places to Use Free Wi-Fi Hotspots

And the barefooted hostesses seemed to enjoy the feat on the mountaintop, which was part of a promotion for the aviation school and for the local landscape.


Local scenery

The pictures are actually being used to promote the local scenery, surrounded by soaring clouds and greenery


The barefooted hostesses seemed to enjoy the feat on the mountaintop, which was part of a promotion for their company and for the local landscape

The pictures are actually being used to promote the local scenery, surrounded by soaring clouds and greenery, and will also encourage would-be stewardesses during the pursuit of their dream job in the air.

The famous Laojun Mountain range forms part of a region that is known as the Three Parallel Rivers – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003.

Read also: How to Prevent Your Ears from Popping During Flights

It is a biodiversity hotspot and one of the few remaining places where the endangered Yunnan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti) can still be found.

Cabin Crew

Cabin crew members were guided by a Taoist priest, dressed in black, who demonstrated poses and techniques of martial arts

(Daily Mail)




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