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Jul-11-2013 12:10printcomments

Is the Line Between a Boda Boda Ride & Airliner Blurred?

My old man, (RIP), who trained many military and commercial pilots, not only in Ethiopia but throughout Africa and in the Middle East used to throw his favorite quote; “Accidents don’t just happen. They are caused.”

Hussain Ahmed with USAF chopper
Hussain Ahmed with USAF chopper

(UGANDA) - As an aviation enthusiast sired and brought up by an aviator, I happen to know that a qualified pilot certified to fly commercial jetliners will always be introduced to a new aircraft that he hasn’t flown before by a certified flight instructor. The induction in most cases takes place in grueling simulator training. If memory serves me right, after completing the simulator training actual flight training that involves “touch-and-go landing” or what the British call “circuits & bumps” maneuver would follow.

Even after finishing this training, the trainee Captain will be accompanied by a certified Captain to gain experience or build up his flying time on the new aircraft by flying to every route that the airline is destined to fly. They call this route check whereby the trainee Captain might be referred as In Command Under Supervision (ICUS) whereas the pilot supervising his proficiency is called check pilot who is actually in command of the flight as a fully fledged Captain.

Seen from this perspective, therefore, almost all the reports we hear about the fateful flight crew of Asiana in command of Boeing 777 is unprofessional to say the least. The Guardian reported on July 10 that the flight instructor himself was on his first flight to San Francisco. It further referred to him as a “co-pilot.”

Hussain Ahmed upon completion a flight instructor course in U.S Army Aviation, Alabama

Since when is a co-pilot able to become a flight instructor? Not even all fully fledged Captains can become flight instructors. Could it be that Guardian mistakenly reported the pilot-in-command who was checking out the trainee Captain for a “co-pilot” because he sat on the right seat as all flight instructors do?

At any rate, either there is a serious flaw on the reporting of the incident on Asiana or aviation safety have seriously been compromised to the point of a boda boda ride. Boda bodas are motorcycle taxis in Uganda notoriously known in claiming lives & limbs. Otherwise, what do you make of the other piece of information on The Guardian? According to the newspaper, out of the “four pilots on board” Asiana, “three were in the cabin during the landing.” Thanks also to Arthur Hailey who authored “Airport,”

I know enough to know that takeoffs and landings are the time where pilots face heaviest workload notwithstanding technological breakthroughs that equipped modern aircrafts with auto landing system. Let alone for pilots to leave their cockpit at this crucial time in flight, even passengers are not allowed to move. That’s why they are invariably being advised to remain strapped to their seat.

It’s understandable for the “world’s largest pilot union” to be embarrassed with this information and get defensive to the point of “rebuking” the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) citing prejudgment that may “lead to wrong conclusions and compromise safety.”Whatever the case, to me news of aviation accidents seem to have become too frequent. And the globetrotting public’s lives and limbs shouldn’t be subjected to wanton danger after paying exorbitant fare as if it’s taking a desperate ride on a boda boda or Okada as they call them in Lagos.

My old man, (RIP), who trained many military and commercial pilots, not only in Ethiopia but throughout Africa and in the Middle East used to throw his favorite quote; “Accidents don’t just happen. They are caused.”

So let’s know the cause without fear or favor and learn from it. That’s the only way of keeping aviation the safest, even romantic, means of transportation where other sectors can follow the example.


Kiflu Hussain is an attorney based in Uganda. He says his passion for writing came from reading, and that it’s inevitable that the more one reads, the more one develops the urge to write. Kiflu has published articles in Ethiopia on the English Reporter, then a weekly newspaper along with a few Amharic articles on the defunct Addis Zena. It was after he and his family found refuge in Uganda, that he began contributing writings to the local papers and various websites such as Daily Monitor, Uganda Record, The New Vision, Ethioquestnews, Garowe Online, WardheerNews etc.

The reason for this is clear. Ethiopia, despite being a seat of the African Union had never produced a regime that allows even the minimum space for dialogue that other people in Africa enjoy so naturally. So Kiflu's ending up as a refugee in Uganda is a blessing in disguise for it accorded him with the opportunity to write. He says at the same time he learned, unfortunately, that his refugee status would be what showed how deep the hypocrisy of the “international community” goes. We at are honored to carry this gentleman's work and we hope that in the process, western people may come to appreciate the struggle of refugees throughout the world.

You can write to Kiflu at this address: E-mail;



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