Captain Mario Enahoro is one of Nigeria’s high-flying pilots ruling the airspace. He can best be described as a cockpit veteran who has literally seen it all in the aviation industry. Right from his early days at now defunct ADC airline where he began his flying career, the unassuming pilot has built a reputation for competence and professionalism. Today, he is one of Nigeria’s prides in the aviation industry and he is highly respected by his colleagues. There is never a boring moment chatting with this classic man as his burst of energy is consuming to those who have been privileged to interact with him. He has worked with several airlines in Nigeria and outside the shores of the country. Captain Mario is happily married to a paragon of beauty, Violet, who interestingly is a pilot too. Abuja Standard Publisher, SEYI ONIFADE had an interesting chat with the waistcoat-loving pilot where he opened up on his passion for flying, aborted Air Force career and his views on life generally. Enjoy the excerpts!
Can you share with our readers what really inspired your passion for flying?
Well, like it started when I was a kid I wanted to be an aeronautic engineer, then as I was growing up I wanted to be in the Air Force. And as I was growing up more and becoming an adult I wanted to see the world so that’s basically what inspired me.
Was there any parental influence or do you have anyone in the family with a background in flying?
Yeah my uncle was in the Air Force and then I loved the uniform and the fact aeroplane you know its not everybody that can operate this kind of machine. I got attracted to it and so went to join the Air Force. They actually enrolled me and I got into into the Air Force but just that same week I don’t know if you know about the C-130 Hercules crash at Ejigbo with a lot of military officials and unfortunately my uncle was in it. And since then my parents were like hey you have got to get out of the Air Force which I was withdrawn from the Air Force and that was the end of my military career. Then I went to Ladoke Akintola University where I studied Agricultural Engineering and after my 5 years you know like the question they always ask where did you see yourself in 5 years?. I don’t really see myself in 5 years with anything. Then I used to run an Apiary Bee farm in Kuje in Abuja that was on the side but along the line I was not happy and then I remember that I have always wanted to fly. And in between my Industrial Training i enrolled myself into flying school in Kaduna that was Eagle Flying Club and I was shuttling between flying school in Kaduna and university. Finally i graduated and had time for flying school and I did the first part which was Private Pilot License. And after NYSC I went straight to South Africa to pursue my passion to finish up which I did and I got back and started working in 2005. I got a job with ADC airline but I have not started to fly they crashed and shut down. Then I started the ground school with Sosoliso but for some reason I got a better offer then I left Sosoliso to Wings Aviation, a private charter company. I was there for a while but I was not happy with the mode of operation and I wasn’t happy with the financial aspect of it. Then I got a job with Aero Contractors for 8 years and then left Aero and went to Arik Air. I flew with Arik for about 2 years and I am with Air Peace and I have been with Air Peace for 2 years.
Let’s do a quick flashback now, tell us about your first time experience of piloting a plane?
Oh! I was ready for it. I have been studying it was in Kaduna and I was like I can do this and eventually I was put into that seat, then we started the engine and I was like okay it wasn’t the feeling I was expecting. I was now getting tensed but I had to muscle it and we taxied and got to the runway. And then the instructor says put the power and I added the power it was so noisy and the scream and everything my heart was beating fast. I was a bit nervous, panicked and excited, and when we got to the runaway then he(the instructor) said add the power because you need lots of Clause to take off and when I added the power it was so loud and noisy. I didn’t even know that I do not add the full power because I thought I was going to damage the engine and the plane was rolling and we took off but we were not climbing fast as it should. And the instructor noticed it he now put the rest of the power in and we went into the sky like zoom and he told me that’s how you will die, that’s how you will die and he took out the power and we were falling out of the sky and he put on the power again and we went back up and I was like Jeez I almost peed on myself. It was exciting and scary, it was really a beautiful experience.
Can you still remember your first route as a commercial pilot?
My first flight was into Warri, they call it Osubi and it was during my training. I felt so great. It was wonderful the instructors were nice and I was like this is my dream it was wonderful been in the sky honestly its beautiful.
Can you tell us some of your close shave experiences since you have been flying commercial? Tell us about your scariest moments as a pilot?
Hmm-mm let me say as long as you have life in you, as long as you have a soul technically you are prone to risk. I mean people are sitting in the confines of their living room and then a car crashes into their living room and that’s about it. A lot of people say when the plane takes off your life is in the hands of God but its just like driving. There are procedures, there are rules to follow, yes when it is going to go wrong, it will go wrong. I have had couple of incidents err-rm there was one time I lost Hydraulics the pipe burst and we had to do an emergency return it was in Lagos, the oil was just leaking out and we had to manually bring out the landing gear, extend the landing gear if I may use that word technically and we had a successful landing. Then there was one I had in flying school the right engine knocked out on me and we actually crashed but thank God we all came out alive. It was a controlled crash anyway. I have had one too when I was flying into Ghana my flaps(the device that would slow the plane down and make it land properly) refuse to deploy and I had to land faster than faster than the normal speed. It was an emergency which could have led to Tyre burst or might run off the runway and thank God that was well managed. And I had one recently when I took off and a bird ran into my engine and everywhere was smoky and we came back and landed. and the engineers inspected it which damaged one of the blades so they had to do another flight for that day so that’s just about it.
During those scary moments what exactly was the thought running through your mind? How did you manage to remain calm and did you pass any message down to the passengers onboard?
Technically, Nigerian passengers are one of the worst passengers you can get, you know they panic over little things which I don’t blame them generally it’s just a Nigerian mentality but as a crew member and based on the training there are procedures like I have said. Fist things first, we AVIATE, NAVIGATE and then we COMMUNICATE, so by law we have to talk to the passengers like the last one we did was the bird thing. You see as a captain you have to acquire wisdom in this thing, there are information you can give to passengers and there are information you can’t give because hell is going to break loose. So once the situation is under control, yes a bit of information you can give it to them especially when you have to bring the plane back to where you took off from. At least you have to pass some information to keep them abreast and make them comfortable.
Let’s talk fashion a bit, what does it for you when it comes to fashion? What is your taste in fashion like, corporate or casual?
I swing both ways but if I have to do corporate it has to be really classic like I don’t joke with waistcoat. I love waistcoat but I swing both ways and just put one and two together and I like colours but for my belts I do CK, Marcos and stuff. For shoes. I am not particular about any brand just anything that fits me be it Polo, Adidas and whatever that looks good.
What is your advice for anyone reading this who is aspiring to be a pilot?
First things first is that you don’t choose flying, flying chooses you. You must have passion for it, it would keep on calling you. It would not let you rest when I looked back and see lots of young chaps going into flying because its like a peer pressure thing and when they get into it they don’t do well. I tell you I have gone through flying school and I am out flying school and done with the training process and I have been flying for God knows when I have to give a mental calculation. And I’m a captain and I can tell you that some of my peers when we started in the flying school till date they have not graduated. It wasn’t their calling. So what I tell people is let it be your passion that’s number one. And number two you must have the financial support going to flying school is expensive. We have got two in Nigeria, we have the private one in Ilorin and the government one in Zaria. And you are looking at nothing less than 15 to 18 million for the whole course so its expensive and that’s why people go outside to go train because its a bit cheaper but the process is expensive. and we have two parts. the Private License you have to do and the other part which is the Commercial Pilot License. I have noticed that a lot of people just do the first part and got stranded so the best thing is to get the funds for the whole package.