Don’t just have wings, DARE TO FLY.
Joining trailblazers manning the cockpit and leaving in the mark in the aviation industry is Nigerian born Pilot, Adebanke Olayiwola – the First Female African Pilot and only one of four to fly the DREAM-LIFTER.
The brave pilot is also one of the few females pilots that have flown the MD83, known as the “Mad Dog”.
Born and bred in Ibadan, Oyo state Western Nigeria, Adebanke a qualified ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) Professional Pilot, obtained her Pilot licenses at Hortman Aviation Inc Philadelphia, United States.
A proud graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where she bagged her degree in Education, the determined Adebanke later moved to the United Kingdom, there she completed her Masters in Science degree in International Globalization at Leicesters University.
The pilot kicked off her Aviation career flying the B737-800 and has since gone on to man: The DREAM LIFTER, B737-800, B747-400/800, McDonnel-88 and CRJ-900.
Adebanke Olayiwola has proudly flown across North Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific and Central East Pacific including all the Seven Continents and has worked in the airline industry in 3 different continents
She currently flies the B747-800 in United State of America for US base Commercial/Cargo Airline.
On being a female pilot in a male dominated industry, she tells Business Day:
My journey as a female pilot is what I like to refer to “the good, the bad and the ugly” in reverse order. The bad and ugly parts were the early part of my experience as a female pilot. I have always been a confident person. Even when I fail, I believe it is the prelude to future successes because now I know better. Unfortunately for me, my confidence was misconceived as pride by some of my male colleagues. I was perceived as cocky and unapproachable. Of course, that led to them scrutinizing and questioning my competence and ability as a pilot. I had to tone down my excitement about everything and change myself to fit in and live according to others’ standards in a male dominated industry. I quickly realized that this impacted my passion and even my will to fly.
After some self examination and a good break, and with the help of many people in my life and of God of course, I was able to come back stronger and more confident. I believe I corrected the perception without changing who I am. I met one-on-one with my manager and several of my male colleagues, not just the ones I seemingly rubbed the wrong way. I was open about my struggles and asked what I can do to ensure a better working environment with each person at every level. While I strongly believed I had this unwholesome workplace experience because I was female, I am still grateful for it nevertheless because it forced me to reignite my passion for flying and it sharpened my soft skills and work ethics.
Fortunately, I have had more good parts to my career. I started my pilot experience flying a B737-800 for one of our indigenous airlines, Arik Air. This was a big jump-start in my career as a female pilot. The other good point of my career is the privilege to fly MD83 for Dana Airlines. Flying the MD83 gave me the confidence and reassurance I was looking for as a pilot because the MD83 aircraft are referred to as “Mad Dog” planes. If you have flown the “mad dog”, you shouldn’t have issues flying any other aircraft.
The best part of my experience however is my exposure flying in the USA. Being based out of JFK airport in New York, which is one of the busiest airports in the world, has only expanded my horizon. I have learned so much in such a short period of time. I believe that all these experiences, regardless of their classification, have sharpened me, not just as a pilot but also as a woman. One day soon, by God’s grace, you will hear a flight attendant announce over the speaker – “Captain Banke Olayiwola”. My greatest goal is to be an impactful leader in the Nigerian aviation industry. There’s so much more we can do in this industry, not just for women but also for our great country.