Captain Simisola Ajibola was born into a family of aviators. She and her siblings Ademola and Adeoye took after their father, a retired pilot. It was no surprise Ajibola became the hero pilot whose shrewd judgement averted a crash at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria.
Flying about 133 passengers aboard the Air Peace Boeing 737 which lost its tyres after crash-landing at the Airport facility, Ajibola expertly brought the near-fatal incident under control, thus saving the lives of those aboard amid poor visibility and bad weather.
“The aircraft landed hard, causing the nose wheels to separate from the strut. All 133 passengers and six crew disembarked safely, although there was extensive damage to the runway and plane,” was how The Cable described the incident in 2019.
According to official records, the Air Peace Boeing 737-300, registered 5N-BQO, was performing flight P4-7191 to Lagos from Port Harcourt. The aircraft was 21 years old at the time of the incident and had previously served a number of other carriers, including Virgin Express, Brussels Airlines and Discovery Air. It entered service with Air Peace in May 2015.
Ajibola became the first woman captain to be decorated by Air Peace Airlines in 2018 after joining the airline in February 2017 as a Senior First Officer (SFO).
Speaking to reporters, Ajibola said the tyre of the aircraft pulled off after the nose wheel of the aircraft collapsed following hard landing contrary to report that happened while airborne.
“The report about initial landing without tyres is not true. The incident happened after we touched down,” she told The Nation.
“I didn’t go into the air without tyres, we were not on a descent without tyres. Some reports say we called for emergency while in the air and that is not true.
“It was after we landed we asked for emergency services. So whatever happened, happened on the runway that day.”