■ How passengers celebrated with the couple-pilots
■ Husband says ‘I would’ve loved to be a farmer, and wife motivational speaker’
The story of Captains Victor and Violet Enahoro is an amazing one. The husband and wife are the first ever Nigerian couple to pilot commercial jets.
The two are pilots of Air Peace, a fast growing airline.
Recently, for the first time they flew officially together, piloting a round trip from Lagos to Benin, and landed at the domestic wing of Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA2), Ikeja, on the same day.
The lovebirds expertly landed the Boeing 737 with the 123 passengers on board, but who did not initially know that they were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary on that day.
On the special flight, Victor was the captain while his wife was the co-pilot.
Watching them gaze into each other’s eyes as they fielded questions from Sunday Sun reporter, one could just see love soar high just like the aeroplane.
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Captain Victor Enahoro is from Edo State while his wife, Captain Violet Enahoro, who is from Akwa Ibom State, is of Nigerian-British parentage. Read their scintillating story as the duo sat down to take the questions together, but one after the other:
What did you do today (the day of the interview)?
Violet: We flew officially together on the same flight for the first time. My husband was the pilot and I was the co-pilot. We flew to Benin and do a return flight. It was not a normal celebration; we just did it as part of our wedding anniversary. It was not the first time we had flown together, but officially it was the first time. We have done an unofficial flight together in South Africa years back when we took one of the aircraft from where it was brought to the flying school; though it was a small plane, we flew from Durban to Cape Town.
Did you announce to the passengers that it was your wedding anniversary?
Violet: No, we did not, but the flight attendants took it upon themselves to announce to passengers that they were lucky to be flown by Captain Enahoro and his wife, whose wedding anniversary happened to be that very day. They urged the passengers to stop by and felicitate with us. We found ourselves standing by the door when we landed to receive warm wishes and prayers.
What is your favourite part of flying?
Violet: Most pilots love to watch another pilot land. It is fascinating because you cannot see yourself land except if recorded.
What is the toughest part of flying?
The toughest part of flying is actually going through the aviation school and graduating as a pilot. If it is the phase of flight, they are all the same. Again, flying through bad weather can be tough basically because you are flying against odds, flying on water, bumper, relying on your instrument, making a lot of decisions, constant calculations, next schedule, minimums, and thinking of so many considerations and how to be legal when landing.
What other things do you do together as pilots?
Victor: First, we are husband and wife. We live together as normal couples when we are from the cockpit and at home. We take family vacations together to rest and generally enjoy our company. We are also business partners as well.
What attracted you into the aviation industry? Victor: Actually, I would have been in Air Force, because I wrote and passed the examination, got admitted, but my uncle who was processing the admission died in the Ejigbo Air Force plane crash. I have always shown interest in aviation, but with my uncle’s death in a plane crash, my mother adamantly refused to allow me join the Air Force and train as a pilot. Somehow, I lost interest, but my aunties kept reminding that I used to love aeroplanes as a young boy. In fact, if I wasn’t a pilot; I would have been an aeronautic engineer. So, going to Ladoke Akintola University to study Agricultural Engineering was to fulfill all righteousness because I already knew where I was going. I started my aviation training just as I was about graduating from the university.
Violet: I studied Chemistry at the University of Calabar. During my 300-Level Industrial Training, I wasn’t interested in chemistry anymore, and somehow I felt bored. But I have always been attracted to the flying career.
Were you discouraged when you started your aviation training as a woman?
Violet: As I said earlier, when I started my flight training, people around me didn’t support it,
they wanted me to do something normal for a woman considering the fact that marriage would definitely be involved. But when they saw that I was passionate with what I wanted and succeeded as well, they turned around and supported me.
How did you people meet?
Victor: We first met in a flying club in Kaduna in 2003 and became friends. In fact, I didn’t like her then because she was always a swagger. After that we lost contact.
Violet: If you didn’t like me then, why did you give it a second thought? (Laughter).
When did she finally give you sleepless nights that led to marriage?
Victor: It was when we met again in a South African flying school. I came to South Africa
to continue my training then as a pilot. The school I selected was where she was already attending, unknown to me. We still remained friends, but because she was on ground earlier than myself, she knew the place more and showed me around. She put me through and from there it began to grow.
What was the attraction?
Victor: We developed friendship then and she graduated before me. When she left, I felt
a void, and that was how I knew she was the one. I started calling and checking on her regularly. When I told her my intention, she said no; I begged her for four to five months. The day she finally agreed, I was the happiest man on earth. I spent all my pocket money to celebrate with friends when I got her positive response to a life commitment.
Violet: For me, the attraction was his confidence. He had a good sense of humour, always making me to laugh. There is this feeling of peace I have around him. He is patient and has a lot of self-control; very attentive to his surroundings. It is hard to surprise him because he does not miss anything. He is an understanding and supportive lover and has remained so as a husband.
Are you the only couple-pilots, who fly for the same airline?
Violet: Yes, we are the only couple-pilots who fly Air Peace in Nigeria for now, but there are other couple-pilots who fly for different airlines.
What is his favourite food?
Violet: He grew up in Lagos, and likes amala and ewedu with a lot of meat. He is a healthy eater. He can eat one bowl of vegetable soup without any form of ‘swallow’ and that is a whole meal for him. I grew up in Nigeria and can cook most African dishes. He is a stressless husband who does not demand immediate pounded yam. He is a caring husband and father. At times, he roasts potatoes and barbeque for the family’s dinner.
How do you handle female admirers?
Violet: It is a manifestation that I have something good.
From a professional point of view, what do you want the government to urgently do at the airports?
Violet: A lot, there is urgent need to upgrade all the runways to categories that will allow you land with lower visibility, renew all the needed equipment and install the latest equipment that controllers need.
What are the challenges you encounter as pilots?
Victor: Piloting has its challenges like every other job. When passengers are being managed because of poor weather; during harmattan periods and poor visibility, you could sit on ground for hours and passengers do not like to hear about delayed or cancelled flights. We are not different from surgeons who research and study, the same way we do. The only difference is that when something goes terribly wrong, the pilot goes down with his passengers, but surgeons do not go down with their patients. Meanwhile both are sensitive jobs.
What about the fears associated with flying, especially air crash?
Violet: It is not a normal situation. The thought would not present itself, because it hasn’t occurred and with God’s grace it will not occur. The opportunity does not present itself really.
Victor: As a pilot on its own generally, at times ‘speed second’ situation can happen and you would ask, ‘oh, what is this?’ But because of our training, that is why our job involves handling situations. We are also humans who have families. But because we are used to controlling situations, we are not like passengers that their heart is in their mouth from take-off to landing. That is our office, it is nothing.
What other experiences do you share together as couple-pilots?
Violet: We try to keep faith a lot; we take family vacations and do business together.
Do you operate a joint account?
Violet: No, we do not because we had separate accounts before we got married. But we do not have friction over our financial management. It is not a problem for us at all.
What was the longest flight you have flown? Violet: My longest flight was from Lagos to Peru. We ferried for eight hours or more and did three stops. We took off from Lagos to Monrovia, from Monrovia we crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil, and from Brazil we crossed the Amazon Forest and landed in Peru. We went to drop the aircraft for maintenance. Airlines do that every now and then; they pick their crew to drop an airplane and when it is ready, another crew would go bring it back.
How do you manage the home front as a busy pilot-wife?
Violet: What would have happened if both of us were working in the bank where you spend all day? Bankers leave early and return late. But in our own case, we are very okay with our timing. As he is coming back, I am going; we don’t have much of a time when the children are left alone with the nannies. We can just have an hour or two away from each other, before he comes or I come back. After this meeting with you now (referring to the day of the interview), we are homebound and it is just past 2:00p.m. When he is doing early morning, I might be on afternoon schedule. At times, he would have breakfast with the children while I am gone to work and would return to have lunch with my kids when they are back from school and all that. Our timing is not a problem at all. We are fine.
If you were not a pilot, what would you have loved to be?
Victor: I would have loved to be a mechanised farmer. I studied Agricultural Engineering at Ladoke Akintola University in Osun State.
Violet: I would have been an entrepreneur or an international motivational speaker.