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'We mostly used the HF radio in the aircraft to call Berna Radio in Switzerland and they could patch a phone call to anywhere in the world'
Mike Mahon remembers some of the technical difficulties while being a pilot in Nigeria.
Trinity College Dublin
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For the two weeks we were flying in Nigeria contact to home was difficult as the phones never worked in the hotel . You could go to the post office and book an overseas call but had to wait hours for a connection also pay in advance for the duration of the call and if exceeded be cut off. We mostly used the HF radio in the aircraft to call Berna Radio in Switzerland and they could patch a phone call to anywhere in the world. At most Nigerian airports the navigation aids , ATC and communications were very unreliable. One of our aircraft developed a technical problem after landing at Yola and the crew urgently needed to contact our engineers in Lagos. As there was no contact from Yola to Lagos the pilots resorted to calling Berna Radio and requesting them to try to phone operations in Lagos and were eventually put through. The same airport , Yola had no navigation radio aids at the airport. In bad visibility we attempted to land using a commercial broadcasting station located some miles away in the town. We would descend using this to low level then hold a heading and altitude hoping a runway would materialize somewhere beneath us. There was a lake on the approach and one of our guys came back with the news that he now had discovered a new way to land at Yola We were told to hold a certain bearing from the radio station, descending over the lake, then look for a small island and the runway was straight ahead. However , what he did not realize was that the 'island' was just a bunch of weeds and drifted about at the whim of the winds!
Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)
Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)
Senior Research Associate
Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)
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