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Nigeria’s first female Boeing 787 pilot valued by Qatar Airways.

Nigeria’s first female Boeing 787 pilot is cruising long-haul for Qatar Airways, doing so with class, from an unprecedent perch that inspires men, and women, and proves, once again, that the gifted will attain the best in the right environment.

Women drive double decker London red buses. Women drive BRT buses in Lagos.

But for Adeola Sowemimo, 31, to take the Dreamliner to the skies with 250 passengers onboard and fly at Mach 0.85, the equivalent of 1,024 kilometres per hour – three times faster than a Formula 1 car in full speed – well, that is surreal.

She is an ordinary Nigerian. Born in Kaduna.

There, she attended three primary schools. Northern upheaval relocated her South, and she had to attend a fourth primary school before she could proceed to secondary.

She attended two secondary schools, one in the South, the other back in the North. She returned to the South for a pre-degree course, but before finishing it, went up North again to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria.

After her pilot training, she flew off to Florida in the United States for her standard pilot course. She finished at 21. Then she returned to the South to complete her university education.

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Intrepid. Rugged. Determined. Focused. Persistent. And she is a woman.

Proving yet again that a Nigerian, male or female, from any background can and will achieve the best under the right circumstances. The greatest obstacle to that is visionless leadership, by far the worst exemplifier of which is Muhammadu Buhari.

Sowemimo is the first Nigerian female Boeing 787 pilot and also the first Nigerian female pilot to fly for Qatar Airways based in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Inspiration to women worldwide

Aviation anywhere is male dominated. But Sowemimo has presented herself as a true reflection of a woman who has succeeded in the industry.

Her focus and persistence helped her rise to that altitude, to cruise at 903 kilometres per hour at 10,700 metres above sea level and become a pioneer in her field.

She is an inspiration to women across the world who agitate for “breaking the bias” against them by men.

Early education

Adeola Sowemimo was born on 16 October1990 in Kaduna to Ademola and Deborah Ogunmola. She is the last of three children. Her parents are from Oyo State.

She started primary school at Brighton International School, Kaduna; then attended King International School Rigasa, Kaduna. From there, she went to First Baptist Church Primary School, Kaduna.

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She finished primary school in 2000 at Temitope Nursery and Primary School in Ibadan after relocating South due to religious crisis in Kaduna in the North.

She began secondary at Orita Mefa Baptist Model School, Ibadan but went back to Kaduna to finish at First Baptist Model High School, Angwan, Boro in 2007.

Aviation journey

Sowemimo enrolled for a pre-degree course at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho but could not finish before she proceeded to the NCAT in Zaria to start her standard aviation course.

She

  • Did her Standard Aviation Course from 2009 to 2010.
  • Completed her standard pilot course at Sunrise Aviation Inc in Florida in 2011
  • Returned from the US, studied transport management part time at LAUTECH, and obtained a bachelor’s degree.

Career pilot

Sowemimo

  • Joined Medview Airlines based in Lagos in 2013 as a First Officer on Boeing 737 classic. She was later upgraded to Boeing 767-300ER.
  • Joined Qatar Airways in October 2018 and became the first Nigerian woman to fly Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
  • Flew Boeing 767 aircraft across the Atlantic and in November 2020 started flying the new Lagos-Abuja Qatar Airways route.
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She joins the league of African female pilots like

  • Millicent Danquah, a Ghanaian who flew solo for the first time in a de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft in 1964.
  • Asli Abade, a Somali who had her first solo flight in 1976.
  • Chinyere Kalu, the first Nigerian female commercial pilot in 1978.

Family life

Adeola married Seun Sowemimo on 22 April 2017. They are blessed with children.

“It is the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in my sight,” she wrote on her Facebook page after Qatar Airways employed her as a pilot.

She also posted a picture of herself at Sunset Aviation School, Florida with the caption: “Days of little beginning … God be praised #Ihavedominion.”

Her feat attracted the attention of former World Bank Vice President Arunma Oteh, who wrote: “Congratulations Captain Adeola Ogunmola Sowemimo, making Nigeria proud.”

Sowemimo is a trailblazer and an inspiration to all women everywhere, young and old. She shows that regardless of race, if a woman works hard, she can achieve great feats and be recognised for her hard work and determination.

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