Now that we are at the end of the year, a period usually parked with lots of activities that involves traveling intra and interstate, many have made plans for the season. As the year winds down, Nigerians who have had to leave their state or home to another in search of money and good life make it a point of duty to return home. With the deplorable conditions of our roads and the almost nonfunctional rail line, Nigerians who have the economic capability make use of the safest means of transportation, Air.
Though much more expensive than the others, the ease and comfort of flying is what many appreciate. With various resorts and tourist sites scattered all over the world, some Nigerians utilize the yuletide period to travel out of the country to these mind-blowing locations. Like other means of transportation, traveling by air, either home or out of the country, has its own disadvantages. One then ask, when did aviation kick off in Nigeria?
Nigeria’s aviation can be broadly categorized into two developmental stages which are the Colonial and the Post-colonial era. What is now a full blown sector was once only a dream and a show of bravery and tact. According to historical writings, Nigeria experienced a remarkable and memorable moment which is seen as the bedrock for our current aviation sector. On November 1, 1925, three De Haviland DH 9A aircraft owned by the Royal Air force (RAF) successful landed in Nigeria for the first time. This milestone was first experienced in Maiduguri and Kano city as a result of the golf course which was used as the interim runway and hanger.
According to Vincent Orange’s book, the “Coningham: A Biography of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham”, he gave details of the threat and challenges encountered as well the experiences gathered while attempting to travel through a terrain that had never been passed before. To celebrate this moment, the pilots were invited by the traditional chiefs, thereafter played polo with Emir of Zazzau, Ibrahim Kwasau and offered rams by the Shehu of Borno Sanda Kura.
In other to achieve this historical event which was also an avenue by the British marshals to test run the aircraft as well as understand the route, Coningham who led the venture was faced with huge problems. Some of these difficulties include absence of Navigation apparatus, engine capacity, unavailability of transmitting or receiving equipment’s hence the need to rely heavily on compasses, maps and his instinct.
Taking off from Helwan on 27th October, the aircraft had a stopover at Wadi Haifa where they had to refuel the planes as well as lighten the weight on the planes. Faced with unfavorable conditions, for a total period of sixteen days, the pilots flew and landed safely in Maiduguri to rousing noises and shouts of those who had filled the streets expecting their arrival. Due to the unavailability of runway, the aircrafts got stuck in the sands which they landed and it took forty-five minutes to pull them out to a stronger part of the polo field.
Scheduled to also fly to Kano on that same day, the pilots couldn’t leave when expected because one of the planes had a damaged carburetor. Upon fixing the plane, they took off and got to Kano at 5:10 and also got a huge welcome by both indigenes and military personnel. Few days later, they left Nigeria and flew back to Britain where they were met with various accolades for their bravery and also for successfully returning the planes without any major damages.
On completion of the journey, the air marshal proudly announced to his colonial counterparts of their ground breaking achievements which include two firsts which are; the first east-west crossing of Africa by air and the first appearance of aircraft in Nigeria. Although residents of Kano had to wait 10years before seeing an aircraft again which was during the reign of Emir Abdullahi Bayero in 1935, the aviation sector in Nigeria has come a long way and is still on a path of development. With over 90 years after the first flight landed in Maiduguri and Kano, is Nigeria’s aviation where it should be? Feel free to share your opinion in the comment section.