There’s hardly any sector today where women won’t be found doing amazing things. And in this article, we’ll look at a trailblazer whose resilience and passion broke the stereotypes in Nigeria’s aviation industry. Her name is Chinyere Kalu, Nigeria’s first commercial pilot.

What’s her story? 

Chinyere is a native of Akwete, Ukwa East Local Government Area (LGA), in Abia state. She was primarily under her mother’s care following her parents’ separation. She had her primary school education at the Anglican Girls Grammar School in Yaba, and for her secondary education, she attended the Lagos Anglican Girls Grammar School in Surulere, Lagos. Initially, she wanted to become an air hostess, but along the way, she changed her mind and decided to pursue piloting. 

Her decision to have an aviation career was met with the support of her family, particularly her aunt, who was the family’s matriarch. She attended the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology in Zaria, Kaduna, to train as a private and commercial pilot, where she had to face different challenges.

What were the challenges?

It’s well known that the aviation sector is male-dominated, so she had to deal with self-doubts, especially as her male colleagues sometimes intentionally made it difficult for her. But aside from this, there was the constant tension of being dismissed as during her time in aviation school, letters of dismissal were sent out on Fridays to weed people out, but she managed to pull through. 

In addition to her aviation college training, Zaria, she took other aviation courses in the United States and the United Kingdom. Here’s an overview of some of her training:

  • Air Transport Pilot License (ATPL) Course, Bolivia Aviation, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
  • Aircraft Accident Investigation and Prevention Course, Federal Aviation Administration, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
  • Flight Instructor’s Rating, Civil Aviation Authority, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Commercial Pilot License (CPL/IR), NCAT, Zaria
  • Postgraduate Diploma, Transport Management and Logistics, Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria
  • Airborne Collision Avoidance/T-CAS Training for Air Traffic Controllers Course
  • Pilots Human Performance and Limitations/Crew Resources Management/Human Factors Course

Chinyere Kalu received her licence as a commercial pilot on May 20, 1981, from the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, and the rest, as they say, is history. She has gone on to receive many awards and recognitions. She was conferred a member of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2006 and a member of the Nigerian Women Achievers Hall of Fame. Some of her other awards include:

  • African International Achievers Merit Award, 2007
  • The Rare Gems Professional Achievement Award, 2007
  • Nigeria’s 50 Greatest Women of Democratic Administration of Ghana 2012 

She served as the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology’s rector and chief instructor from October 2011 until 2014, when Captain Samuel Caulcrick succeeded her. 

Chinyere Kalu’s story is proof that when it comes to dreams, there are no gender boundaries, and she’ll continue to be a source of inspiration for many young Nigerian girls and women.


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