“If women were meant to fly, the sky would be pink!”
We were delighted to welcome back alumna Captain Enid Otun (Alfred, 1980) and her wife Lucy to Ashford School to give a talk as part of our Wider Horizons Lecture series titled ‘If women were meant to fly, the sky would be pink’. Enid was the first female Chief Pilot in West Africa and she spoke to our students about her career and some of the experiences and challenges she faced working as a woman in the “man’s world” of aviation in the 80s and 90s and the inspirational mentors that helped her along the away.
Enid was born to a Cumbrian mother and a Nigerian father in the early sixties. By the time she was born her father had long since returned to his native Lagos, Nigeria, leaving her mother to take care of her as a single parent to a mixed-race baby in a time when mixed-race babies weren’t the “done thing”! At the age of 13, Enid was sent to board at Ashford School, and it was whilst studying here that she was taken on a pleasure flight at a small airfield in Headcorn, and her love for flying began.
On her return to Lagos, she took up flying lessons, and at age 18, she became the proud owner of a Private Pilot’s License. Commercial licenses and flight instructor ratings swiftly followed at a flight school just outside San Francisco. With a few hundred hours under her belt, she returned to Nigeria to enter the world of commercial aviation. Preparing herself for the inevitable prejudices in the eighties and nineties, she forged a path through a 25-year career. During her talk she shared some of her many adventures whilst flying including being struck by lightning (which straightened her Afro!) and being hit by hailstones the size of tennis balls.
Being the first woman offered a Chief Pilot position was a great confidence boost and even though she did not know it at the time, would set a precedent in this cultural and traditionally reticent society. Enid’s mantra is ‘If you don’t take risks, you will never know what you can achieve’. She stands by this today, and aims to continue to inspire the next generation of young female pilots.
Enid had not been back to Ashford since she left, and so it was also an absolute pleasure to show her and Lucy around Ashford School, and hear about her memories (and all the mischief she got up to whilst here!).
Thank you to Enid & Lucy for sharing your time with our students. We can’t wait to welcome you back to Ashford School in the very near future.
Enid has her own podcast where you can hear her story in more detail. You can listen here.