This Too, Shall Pass
Category : General
This Too, Shall Pass
By Ofonime Essien
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!