'Going back to Nigeria I take my brain out and leave it in the freezer'

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'Going back to Nigeria I take my brain out and leave it in the freezer'


Mike Mahon remembers working as a pilot in Nigeria.


Mike Mahon


Trinity College Dublin




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One of the most interesting and amusing periods of my life were the years I spent flying in Nigeria. I was employed by Guinness Peat Aviation in Shannon and they had a contract with Nigeria Airways. This was a 'wet' lease i. e. supplied aircraft and crews, both pilots and engineers. The deal was good, we spent 15 days in Nigeria and then got home on leave for the next 15, best summed up by a colleague of mine who said, . Going back to Nigeria I take my brain out and leave it in the freezer', So every month ewe were required to commute between Heathrow and Lagos. The check in area for Nigeria Airways at Heathrow was a good example of what was in store for us. It was utter chaos, airport staff had to erect security barriers to contain the mob. A valid ticket meant nothing, you had to be ready to 'dash' the check in staff to get on board and fights frequently broke out as the word 'queue' was not in the Nigerians dictionary. For some reason GPA never bothered to get us visas or work permits in Nigeria, so we traveled in our pilots uniforms to get through emigration, security and customs. We were accommodated in the Ikeja Arms Hotel in down town Lagos. The hotel was frequently without water or electricity, but we all had our own permanent rooms which we equipped with a fridge/ freezer and small cooker. The food in the hotel was basically inedible , I once saw a rat running up the curtains in the dinning room. We traveled down with enough dried food to last two weeks; vacuum packed meat, tins and pot noodles and did our own cooking as it was considered to dangerous to go out at night in Lagos. When I arrived first I was shocked when occasionally we came across a dead body on the road as we drove to the Airport in the crew car. The city was filthy, open sewers, stink of uncollected garbage, decrepit buildings, mud , rotting vegetation , mobs of jostling people and constant traffic jams which the locals called ' de go slow' A favourite African method of dealing with a petty thief was for the mob to chase him through the market shouting 'thief man, thief man, stop him. ' If the poor unfortunate was caught a rubber tire was thrown over his head he was dowsed in petrol and set alight .


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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