Mary Abye Ombugadu


Mary Abye Ombugadu is the very first female pilot from Nasarawa State, North-Central Nigeria.

In a chat with Vanguard, Mary speaks on her life as a pilot, working in a male-dominated field, among other issues.

“I like to say flying chose or found me. Growing up and watching my father have a remarkable career as an engineer, all I wanted to be was an engineer”, she said.

She got trained at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Kaduna State. She also had further training in the Finnish Aviation Academy, Finland; Flight Safety in the USA; South Africa and CAE in the UK.

“I had wanted to apply for an engineering course when my mother picked up my form from the Aviation College but because there was no engineering course selection exercise scheduled at the time, I was advised to try the Standard Pilot Course exam and I did.”

Interestingly, she had an exciting training “I was going into something I hadn’t dreamed of but the opportunity availed itself and I caught the flying dream right after resuming as a flying student. I made up my mind to give it my all and excel.”

“There was no bias whatsoever. We all wore the same uniform, black pants, white shirts, black ties, and the school provided the same schoolbags. We were given equal opportunity and I didn’t feel less simply because I am female as much as there were more males than females. Coming into the industry fresh from school.

” I didn’t know what to expect but all the men I have come across so far are encouraging, supportive and I am grateful. I see everyone at work first as a colleague whom I need to work with to achieve a common goal, irrespective of gender. There may be conflict of interest at some point and that comes with living and sharing the world with other humans.

“Although, Mary experienced a low point like most graduate when she needed employment but never gave up. “Low point I remember was after I graduated, and was told at a job interview that I didn’t have the minimum experience required for their kind of operation, and I wondered “how do I get any experience if you do not employ me?” That did not deter me, I kept applying to airlines and general aviation flyers until I got my first job.

A typical day of work for her involve showing up ready and fit for the day. “You show up ready and fit, report at the operations control center where your flight dispatcher gives you all relevant information pertaining your flight, from weather to serviceability of your aircraft, to any route changes, and gives you a briefing pack containing all the paperwork.”

“The captain briefs the entire team also. You then proceed to your aircraft, do your external and internal checks; set up the aircraft and ensure the cabin is comfortable and ready. Checks are done by professional cabin crew.
You call for boarding of your esteemed passengers, fly the aircraft safely and efficiently from point A to point B, and repeat again until you have completed your assigned flights for the day,” said Mary.

To quit flying is something she wouldn’t do because, she loves it so much.

“Since the first day I started line flying in school, I told myself there is no going back. Some of the flight training exercises were tougher than others but we had a chance to repeat before moving onto the next.
I have never felt like quitting. Thankfully, my instructor, Instructor Shettima Abba Jato, was very kind and patient.”

“I have come to love and enjoy flying, it is not just a job but a way of life for me. I intend flying until retirement. I suppose my ever-growing passion for what I do has kept me going.”

Mary believes every young woman has a world full of opportunities before them and can achieve whatever they want because they really can.

“There are different career opportunities in the aviation industry for pilots, from airline to general aviation. After your initial flight training, you decide early what you want out of it and go on to have a rewarding and fulfilling career,” she added.