I'd like to start the New Year by paying tribute to Captain Rufus Orimoloye.
As a little boy growing up in Nigeria in the 70's I considered Nigeria Airways the most amazing place to be and so so dearly loved the flying elephant logo, I cried when the Flying Elephant was withdrawn in favor of the Eagle because of the small mindedness of certain individuals and pressmen who had tagged the logo with the airlines woe's as " too heavy or elephants do not fly" clueless and cruel they had no clue of the Symbol.
I had set my mind and target to fly for WT once I was old enough with a licence in hand. Sadly this was not to be as we all, are aware of how WT ended up.
Back to Captain Rufus, I would like to state here that a lot of accolades, publicity and tributes have been made with regards to Captain Bob Hayes in Nigeria and though I am not in a position to dispute them I would like to just say that there was a man called Captain Rufus Orimoloye and he is my champion from the early days.
Go ask any old timer on the ramp in Lagos about Rufus and just listen to them. Does anyone have any memories of him and whatever happened to him I would Love to hear about him please.
On my part here is a small right up on Rufus I would like to share about Rufus I found buried somewhere.
Nigeria Airways ordered two Standard VC10s in early 1961. Designated type 1104, they were to have been delivered at the same time that Ghana Airways received its VC10s. The order, however, was cancelled as the airline realised that it could not afford them, but once BOAC VC10s were in service between Lagos, Kano and London, Nigeria Airways realised the popularity of the aircraft and, from January 1966 to July 1967, they leased G-ARVC from BOAC. Then on 29th June 1969, they bought G-ARVA from BOAC and registered it as 5N-ABD. G-ARVA was the first production VC10 and the first to go into service with BOAC.
Nigerian VC10 crews were trained by BOAC and used its simulators at Heathrow. The routes were from Lagos to London via Kano, Barcelona and Rome and during the leasing days the crews were drawn from both Nigeria Airways and BOAC. A BOAC Captain would take command with a Nigerian Captain second in command. BOAC often provided the Chief Steward and the cabin staff were Nigerian.
On 30 July 1968 BOAC VC10 G-ARVL departed from Heathrow at 21:50 for Lagos via Rome and Kano under the command of Captain C J Gray with Captain Rufus Orimoloye as Command Under Supervision. The VC10 was operating West African service WT923 and proceeded without incident, arriving in Kano at 05:07 on 31st July. For the final Kano-Lagos sector the arrival weather forecast predicted squall lines - characteristic thunderstorms which affect the West African coast during the rainy season. Orimoloye elected to proceed to Lagos on a 'look see' basis and nominated Kano as the return alternative. After descending to within operational limits on an approach to Runway 19, visibility was poor so the flight returned to Kano.
Consideration was given to terminating the flight at Kano but it was reported that the weather conditions at Lagos had improved so a further attempt was made to land there. By the time the plane began its second approach, conditions worsened. The aircraft circled for a while, then Captain Orimoloye decided to make an approach from the coast and ran inland using VOR and DME. At a late stage, the runway was sighted and the aircraft was placed to make a landing. The airfield, however, was awash with heavy rain and the crew decided to make a further go-around. At this point Number 3 engine started to run rough and had to be shut down. A diversion to Accra was decided upon as it had better maintenance facilities and the availability of a spare engine. During the short flight to Accra, Lagos ATC called the VC10 to report that a Comet of East African Airways had just landed at Lagos and aquaplaned off the end of the runway, coming to rest in deep mud just short of the boundary. The two Captains looked at each other with gratification.
G-ARVL landed at Accra at 12:10 where the flight was terminated. As the crew were about to leave, the Engineer called them back to the tarmac to inspect the failed engine which had been fitted with experimental carbon fibre compressor blades; the basis for the new Rolls-Royce RB211 engine. To the crew's astonishment, the compressor blades had been shredded and were hanging in tatters. It was concluded that they had been damaged by exposure to heavy tropical rain. On returning to London, Gray reported that Orimoloye had passed with flying colours and was cleared to operate in command of the VC10. He also added that if he had shares in Rolls-Royce, he would sell them at once.
Rufus Orimoloye retired from the Nigeria Airways as a DC 10 aircraft Captain in 1982.
Very thoughtful write-up and a good tribute to a fine and worthy aviator. You talk of him in the past tense. I hope he's not passed on. That would be a damn shame.
Like you, my early memories of WT was of Rufus Orimoloye. In fact in the 1960s, a magazine called DRUM did a cover piece on him, caling him the first indigenous commander of a Fokker-27 aircraft. I was not even a teenager then, but I kept the magazine for many, many years, looking at it often and day-dreaming of flying from the left seat of a VC-10 and being Chief Jet Pilot for Nigeria Airways. The names Capts. Tokunboh Williams, Hodge Ogede, Bob Hayes, Ohioma, Pocock, Coma, Virkar, Phil-Ebosie, Nnaji, Ogunsanya, et al, -- were on my lips daily. They were all my heroes and their signatures filled my autograph book. Those were the days!
Much later, after my return from America, I sought out the famed Capt Rufus Orimoloye. He had retired from Nigeria Airways and was now chief flight instructor in NCAT under the military rector, Capt Abdulazeez, a former Air Force L-29 jet pilot. I had to travel to Zaria to meet the famed aviator, and we did so in his staff bungalow, and talked for nearly two hours while his under-age housegirl scurried about serving us tea and biscuits.
What ever happened to this great man thereafter? I would like to know. I haven't seen or heard of him in years. Tanks Zazoo, for reminding us of one of the great icons in Nigerian Aviation.
It was great and heart warming reading your articles - as Captain Rufus Orimoloye is my uncle. And I registered just to be able to respond to your post - and let you know, he now lives in Akure in Ondo state, Nigeria.
BTW @ Zazoo; Captain Orimoloye actually retired in 1979 (or thereabout) and not 1982. But you are right he did retire as a DC10-30 Captain. Nigeria Airways operated 2 (DC10-30s) at the time.
To Zazoo and Maestro: I can forward his direct telephone number (in Akure) to you if you want
And, Zazoo, your narrative was gripping. Orimoloye was in farming in the period 1988 to 1992, when I lost track of him. Please spread the word as far wide as possible. It would be an inspiration to our youth even in fields beyond flying
The original article is the History of the VC10 dating back to 2000. The amazing thing about the VC10s is that many are still in use with the RAF in aerial tanker/ cargo variants after almost 50 years in service.
Captain Orimoloye was also my hero even though my uncle Captain Ebeigbe lived next door to him in Ikeja. He retired in 1979 and has since lived a modest life. His son also called Rufus lives in Nj, his daughter Funlola is married and lives in Nj also. He has 4 other kids. As of 1995 he was still alive, I lost contact with Yomade ( Rufus ) his son. In case you care to know Captain Godwin Ebeigbe died in 1988. Nigeria Airways was the best, just thinking of the great organization and the class of pilots we had still gives me the chill. I hope this helps.
They're all harking back to its days, now. Think of frank Osakwe, who'd flown every type Nig Aw operated by the time he retired early '84. At the end of '84, the A310s came, otherwise he'd have flown them too. In '71, he and late Capt Nnachi were cross qualified on, and flying BOTH the F27 and F28, before they were ordered back to the props alone, to gain experience on them first. There is a photo of Osakwe and another hero, Capt Ore, taking delivery of Oscar Papa, our first B727, in 1977, at nigerianaviation.wordpress.com. And there was Sam Phil-Ebosie, who took command of our DC10, before he attained the age of thirty. It's said to have been reported in McDonnel Douglas' in-house magazine. He was the world's youngest DC10 captain. This list is of course not exhaustive. But we must pay tribute to those early pilots. They did us proud, all of them
Thanks gentlemen for bringing back old memories. I picked interest in becoming a pilot when Captain Uzoukwu of Nigeria Airways came to my school for career talk on Aviation. Please does anyone know her where about or contact? She was a Female Captain with Nigeria Airways and as at 2001 she plied Lagos - JFK New York route on B747.
It's a breath of fresh air to read such a beautifully complimentary dedication and tribute on this notoriously negative website. Well done and thanks for sharing that story. Captain Rufus Orimoloye must be one hell of a man.
It's a good feeling to hear from people who are still in touch or knew Capt Rufus Orimoloye. What's also great about it is how he touched and encouraged so many of us in the aviation sector.
I was very privileged to have flown with senior colleagues who had been in Nigeria Airways and had flown with him, the stories and tales they recounted during my flights with them were countless and made my eyes shine bright with thrill and respect for him. The man definitely left a mark on everyone I knew that had come in contact with him.
From the information I have Captain Orimoloye is alive and well, retired in his hometown and tending to a farm he started there.
Try 1965 to 1970 out of Ibadan. F27s into the old dirt strip. Most of the time they had to do a flyby to get the goats off the "runway." All loaded up to go to Lagos? Yes and then some. Adults sitting on other adults laps, goats wandering the isles, everyone smoking the entire time. Funny, I don't even remember any flight attendants. Great times back then. Ibadan (the university area) was a great place to grow up.
I don't think this thread is here to start another long discussion on the problems facing the Nigerian aviation industry but to pay tribute to well deserved aviators who have played their part and impacted the lives of people positively.
Dear Mr Bus Junkie, unfortunately you sound very offensive, just like one of those debased racially prejudiced junkie characters.
In the 1970's Ibadan Airport, Nigeria never had goats running across the runway, and passengers on Nigeria Airways flights never never sat on each others laps. These are blatant lies. Most likely you were probably never there at that time.
I flew for Nigeria Airways as a pilot officer in the early 1970's with the Old Brigade (trained at Perth, Scotland and Oxford, Kidlington UK) and we flew from the Fokkers (F27/F28), Boeings (737,727,707) to the DC-10s. I flew with these great gentlemen all over Africa, Middle-East, Asia, Europe and North America.
These were highly trained pilots officers who long ago found the jewel of the trade and the etiquette of fine gentlemen.
I remember an occasion on a night stop flight at the Steigenberger Airport Hotel, Frankfurt Main, Germany in 1977. Captain Rufus Orimoloye was invited to play a piano jazz solo piece with the featured band at the Hotel's Lounge, and to our uttermost amazement and surprise played harmoniously and effortlessly. He was so calm and graceful while smiling continuously as he stole the show that memorable night with the crowd cheering asking for more.
Captain Rufus Orimoloye was a fine pilot and a fine gentleman at International standards.