Wings of Freedom

Recently on my return home to Libya I experienced a variety of airlines and was shocked at how bumpy and nerve racking the rides were, even though the airlines were reputable, their pilots seemed incapable of producing the silky takeoffs and landings that Libyan pilots have accustomed us to.

If you have ever flown with Libyan passengers or on a Libyan airlines, then you will know that Libyans have a custom of giving the captain and his crew a standing ovation when the plane lands safely as a token of their appreciation for the skill and effort of the captain and his crew. A delightful etiquette that is unique to Libyan travelers. The Libyan people have always had a very high regard for their pilots. Many faults and vices of Libyan society are continually highlighted in the media while kind and civilized gestures such as the one just mentioned are often forgotten.

Lieutenant Basheer Dheim.
Lieutenant Basheer Dheim.

The Libyan airlines and Libyan pilots are a success story that seldom if ever gets the recognition and praise that it should. The success of the Libyan airways and Libyan pilots is a truly bright star in Libya’s modern history. Libyan modern history full of disappointments, underachievement and wasted opportunities. The Libyan air pilots however were a different story.
Whether commercial flight pilots or Air force pilots, Libyan pilots have established a reputation for their skill and their professionalism. Libyan air pilots are known for their talents in flying and are sought after by all the world’s major airlines. Unfortunately many had to leave Libya in search of better prospects abroad after the sad years of the embargo that the Libyan people had to endure as a punishment for Gaddafi’s terrorism, plus the accustomed bad salaries and the bad work conditions that the previous regime enforced in all sectors of the Libyan economy. Like everything in Libya flying and the Libyan airlines suffered tremendously as Gaddafi’s era of darkness descended upon Libya.

Libyans have a custom of giving the captain and his crew a standing ovation when the plane lands safely as  a token of their appreciation for the skill and effort of the captain and his crew.

I hope that our talented pilots who once migrated from their homeland in the very bleak winter of Gaddafi’s era shall now flock back home to help bring back the former glory to our Libyan skies. I also hope that the eagles of the Libyan air force who watch over our borders and protect our skies will continue to do so for ever more.

Finally I must admit, that my appreciation for the talents of our Libyan pilots stems from the regard I have for my Dear Uncle who was a very talented test pilot in the Libyan air force and died in the line of duty in 1993, his plane crashed in very questionable circumstances, as so many Libyan patriotic military officials often did in the miserable Gaddafi era. We were told it was due to a technical fault that his Miraj experienced. My Uncle left a young wife and five young children. Two of his sons, have followed in their father’s footsteps and are now highly esteemed pilots in the Libyan air force. Both of whom are a source of pride to our family just as their father’s memory will always be.

Just after I had finished writing this article my cousin Tariq Basheer Dhiem, a captain in the air force, found himself in a harrowing situation, landing a MEG23 in Matiga air base. When the wheels failed to emerge, and subsequently had to land his plane without wheels, trying to steer it away from another plane which had just landed before he did. Only through the grace of God and his skill was a collision with the other plane averted. Fortunately my cousin escaped unharmed. While danger is a part of the lives of Air force personnel, it is not acceptable to put them in harm’s way because of faulty equipment? I hope that these brave men are given the courtesy of provision of the equipment they need to do the job they love to do.

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Basheer Dheim.

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