Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pilots Are Not The Highest Paid In Nigeria - Captain Chris Najomo | Says “I Didn’t leave Arik Air”


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The Captain in an after-encounter shot with the GDA
Celebrity pilot and City People Awards for Excellence Best Indigenous Pilot of the Year 2012, Captain Chris Ona Najomo is one of Nigeria’s most gifted pilots with an impeccable flying career of over three decades coupled with an aviation business record hard to replace with anything else.
Chris Najomo who has the rare opportunity of flying both the old and new generation aircrafts in over three decades of his flying career is presently flying the Air Bus 330 modern aircraft brands with Arik Air Plc.  Recently, some local passengers and fervent fans of the Delta state, South-South Nigerian born pilot were of the opinion that the veteran pilot was no more working with Arik Air due to the fact that they couldn’t enjoy his flying skills on the local routes he normally plies any longer. The opinion which came in form of a rumor almost graduated into a real story until your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity encounter blog asabeafrika went into town few days to Easter celebration to search for the veteran pilot and in a no hold bared interview in his Lagos office, Najomo debunked the rumor before explaining  the real reason behind the story which was almost gaining ground in the aviation circle in Lagos. Captain Najomo who has been very busy since the beginning of the year gave us an hour interview that enabled him speak on his career, recent promotion at Arik Air and some other valuable issues relating to the aviation business industry. The Captain fondly called Jolly Papa by fans across the sector just returned from a scheduled trip to London to honor our request. Najomo who is seen as one of the knowledgeable pilots and aviation personality of the last three decades in Nigeria explained to asabeafrika in details real reason why his local fans and passengers who have over the years become familiar with his marvelous skill at flying the aero plane are curious about his absence from the local route where he usually flies the Boeing 737 jet series to the international route where he now flies the Airbus 330 series. The man famously called Jolly Papa also analyzed some of the reasons why plane crashes occur.  Enjoy the excerpts.  
The Captain Speaks to the GDA
Exit from Arik, the true story
“That is not true, the truth is that I now fly the new Airbus 330 which plies the international routes and that is the reason why people could have the feeling that I am gone”. That was how Captain Chris Najomo reacted to our first question before speaking further. “Sometimes, as pilots, we are quite busy and sometimes we are not too busy because we have our expatriates who are on vacation and most of the times some of them have some challenges and for that reason, we the indigenous pilots on the fleet are meant to be very busy. I mean you are here now when they just called that I have to fly to London tomorrow and come back and go to Jo’bourg the next day. So, usually it used to be once a week but now it is going to be like back-to-back. Well, it is okay, flying is what I love doing and I do it well, I got to go to London, come back. I go to Jo’bourg, come back and probably I am going to have some few days off”.
Captain Chris and Mrs Martha Najomo
City People Award and me
Last year when the City People Magazine bestowed upon him the award of Best Indigenous Pilot (2012) during the 16th edition of the prestigious award in Lagos, many gave kudos to City People for spotting Najomo and honoring him for a career status well deserved. But how did the experience make Najomo feel? Hear him speak “Well, to God is the glory because it is by God’s grace that one achieves feats in business endeavors and vocations. I am not too surprised by the award, I will tell you that. About ten years ago I won this award when I was at Albarka Air and the following year I won it again, Best Pilot of the Year Award by the Midwest Hall of Fame.  So, by His grace ten years after I am winning this same award in Arik Air as Best Indigenous Pilot last year; to God be the glory I know the awards is a commendation of my good efforts but it has not changed me because I have continued to be what I am because that is what works for us in our industry and God has been faithful in His doings that we have good updates, we have good machines we fly, state-of-the-art aircrafts. So, the essence of the award was to make me put my acts together once again. I know as a passenger, if you fly me, Captain Chris Najomo, you will want to fly me again. And that is why I am called Jolly Papa”.

Captain Chris Najom....85% of Air
Crashes caused by human factor
How I made my own crowd in 30 years
This blog wondered why Captain Chris has such a strong followership that reveres him so well even in his absence and this was his response “I feel so humbled and I still give God the glory; yes I know my colleagues in the lower fleet, the 737 are great guys.. and you wont believe this….even on the Warri Flight which is a Propeller Aircraft, some passengers will just get in there and say ‘is it Captain Najomo?’ and the cabin crew would say ‘Captain Najomo does not fly the Q-400 propeller’ I was on the 737 as at that time. But since I left for the Air Bus, all my esteemed passengers I owe it to them, they have been asking after me, ‘where is Jolly Papa, where is Jolly Papa, where is Jolly Papa, where is Captain Najomo? And of course they will say to them ‘he is now flying the airbus and they will say ‘nooo, why did you take him to the air bus?’. And some would say ‘oh, good that is where he belongs’ and some would say noo, bring him back to the local, we need him. Go everywhere, Portharcourt, Enugu, Jos, Calabar, everywhere. I really-really enjoy my passengers on the Portharcourt routes and Calabar routes but again, like they say ‘do what you know how to do best’ and to God be the glory, the results will always take you to the next level”.
The Difference: Boeing 737 & the Air Bus
Asabeafrika asked the veteran pilot to describe his experience on both the Boeing series and the Air Bus series and what he told us could be a research thesis for an aviation student. “Well, we are talking of two different types of aircrafts. Boeing is American built, Airbus is French built. However they all both carry the same technology in terms of modern techniques and usability. It makes the work easy for the pilot because everything is all new techs and all that; the airbus has it own peculiarities, it equally shares some similarities with Boeing.  Boeing has peculiar technology as well and I must say that I am enjoying both worlds, I can not say that I  have missed my 737 experience but the airbus makes the pilot kind of lazy because everything is all high tech and I am enjoying the feelings the airbus is giving me now. We have good routes and we have good colleagues and we look forwards to as better future”.
Captain Chris Najomo makes a point to the GDA
Pilots; not highest paid in Nigeria
The next question we put to Najomo made him adjust his sitting position as he tries hard to re-orientate asabeafrika on what seems an ambiguous perception to him “Yes, it ought to be like that in my field especially if we look at it against the back drop of what my counterparts get abroad. It ought to be like that but what I can say to that is that pilots are reasonably paid. It could be better than what we are earning now and if you relate it to the kind of risk and challenges a pilot goes through. You tell somebody ‘come and pilot’ and you fly from here to London six hours; while everybody is sleeping, drinking, we are there in the cockpit navigating the aircraft, trying to dodge all the storms, trying to make sure we confirm with best international practice. I think there is no amount of money you can pay a pilot that will be reckonable to his efforts as a gatekeeper against unfavorable eventualities.  If you even pay a pilot N2.5 Million Naira a month, he earns it and it is expected. So, if it has not gotten there yet, it should get there one day”. 

“That is why a pilot must be well paid. A pilot must be well rested; a pilot must not have emotional problems. A pilot must have all it takes to be in fair good condition. A pilot must be medically fit...So, if you pay a pilot very well, I am very sure he will be able to take care of his home front. So, it is all about proper handling of the mind and emotions of the man in the cockpit”. 
The Veteran Arik Air Captain Chris Najomo
Why Arik leads
We wanted Najomo to tell us why his organization seems to have assumed the role of market leader in the Nigerian aviation sector and he didn’t go far to tell us why “The answer is foresightedness; I give it all to our chairman, he has done well. Chief Arumeni Johnson, God bless you (Najomo prays) He has tried in the last 7 years, he kept it going; it is not easy to run an airline business. I have run an airline before and I am talking from the perspective of a stakeholder. I give it to Chief Arumeni Johnson because it is not easy at all. Any one coming into this industry, you got to be strong financially and you got to be strong technically. You must have some oversea partners which is not easy and he (Arumeni) has been able to do everything best to run the company and that is why I say you can’t beat the man. Everybody wants to beat Chief Arumeni Johnson but you can’t beat him because he is very passionate about professionalism in all ramifications. He has the best air planes, we fly almost the whole Nigerian route, and we have the best routes in the international line. Within 7 years, we know the mileage we have covered; our planes are well serviced by Lufthansa Techniques, the training is superb. I have gone to trainings in my entire 34 years of flying; I have received the best training in Arik. It is an all inclusive aviation company. So, it is all well and done, he has tried. Remuneration will be better; it is getting better by the day. The management is getting better, I can not say there are no challenges but let us give him time, it will get better”.
Captain Chris....I am still with the Arik Family  |  Captain Najom...
'It is a fallacy that pilots are the highest paid in Nigeria
The Missing Malaysian MZ 730 Aircraft and my fear
On what he feels with the issue of the missing Malaysian MZ 730 air craft, Najomo’s mood changes with sober reflection written all over his face as he speaks in low tune “You see, it is one mystery that is yet to be cracked. Even we pilots can still not decode it. We have checked A, B, C and D yet it is still a mystery but I know whatever that may have happened God will reveal it to us because we have checked everything; we have looked at how did they turn, why didn’t they make an emergency call? They flew for 5-6 hours, why didn’t they say, even if it was a hijack, the hijackers would have made a demand. Even if it was an emergency, they would have called the ‘May Day’. If the aircraft had gone down, what about the ELP, so, it is just a bundle of mystery that nobody can comment on now. I know the FA and other international aviation investigation bodies are doing their best to crack the mystery of the missing plane and I wish them best of luck”.
'It is nice meeting you sir,' GDA to Captain Chris Najomo
Plane Crashes; the real thing responsible in most cases
So, what is the major factor that leads to an air crash, human error or technical error? We asked the veteran and he lectured us like a lecturer “In my entire 34 years experience in this job, I have discovered that 85% of (Plane) crashes are due to human factor or you can also call it human error. The 15% is usually just maybe material failure or equipment failure but 85% is purely human error and that is the fact. That is why a pilot must be well paid. A pilot must be well rested; a pilot must not have emotional problems. A pilot must have all it takes to be in fair good condition. A pilot must be medically fit. You see, all these ones combine the 85% of the human factor and human error because a sick pilot can never be in the best frame of mind to do anything good. An underpaid pilot will always be bothered about his bills. A divorced pilot or a pilot that has emotional problem will have problem flying properly with the right frame of mind. So, if you pay a pilot very well, I am very sure he will be able to take care of his home front. So, it is all about proper handling of the mind and emotions of the man in the cockpit”
Chris Najomo....'Why my fans call me Jolly Papa
A word for my fans

 Jolly Papa didn’t end the encounter without a word for his anxious fans who still miss his presence on the local route; hear the jolly Papa “Thank you very much, all my esteemed customers; my friends, my peers, my colleagues. I know you miss me all out there in the local sector. I have not gone (From arik) I am still here; I fly the airbus to London, Jo’bourg and New York. I miss you too and I tell you, you got the best bunch of guys with my colleagues in the fleet. I can assure you that Jolly Papa is still with the family and I will always be with the family”. 

Jolly Papa who is famously known for chatting up his passengers and giving them details of the geographical routes like a Dee-Jay while flying says it is his trademark culture and even now, on the airbus “I have started already. On arrival Jo’bourg one day, as we came down and we were going through checks, all the pilots said “Jolly Papa, Jolly Papa, Jolly Papa, I love your flight”. I think it is all about creating my own niche, about creating my own swag and that is exactly the reason for the difference”. 

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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