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Sun, Apr 02, 2023

2023 NAFI/King Schools Scholarship Awarded

“Anything But Normal”

John King meant no offense when he said of Tracy Atobatele; “You are not normal!” In point of fact, Mr. King’s words were intended as high praise for the winner of the 2023 National Association of Flight Instructors/King Schools scholarship.

Valued at over $18,000, the annual scholarship includes a $5,000 stipend and access to King School’s entire range of instructional materials and videos. The initiative aims to further the career of an aspiring or already working flight instructor.

What impressed storied aviators and inveterate educators John and Martha King about Ms. Atobatele was both the variety of her accomplishments and her unusual combination of entrepreneurial initiative and munificence.

The youngest of four children, Tracy Atobatele was born in a suburb of Lagos, the former Nigerian capital city and among the world’s most infamously lawless and dangerous metropolises. When she was eight, Tracy and her father watched a television segment about a young female pilot.

“Why do you admire her so much?” the young Tracy inquired of her father.

“Her job is very important,” he replied.

Her father’s answer made a profound and lasting impression on the young Atobatele. In Western Africa, professional success was a dream to which not many women could aspire. Nevertheless, Tracy resolved to succeed—regardless the effort or cost required.

Upon graduating from college with a major in marine biology, Ms. Atobatele worked first as a tailor, then as a flight attendant on a number of jet charter services, and finally as a broker of jet charter flights.

In the fullness of time and with help from family and friends, Ms. Atobatele moved to the United States and commenced flight training, an odyssey her father characterized as “so magical and grand.” Eminently resourceful, Atobatele supported herself and her training by establishing an online business selling sneakers made to order in Nigeria using colorful local fabrics. At once generous, determined, and enterprising, Atobatele sent a portion of her profits back to Nigeria, where the monies paid for a needy woman to deliver her child in hospital.

What’s more, at the time, Atobatele was mentoring thirty young women, sharking her knowledge and personal experience for purpose of guiding them in their campaigns to become flight attendants in Nigeria.

Ms. Atobatele’s parents supported her ambitions, her mother even more so than her father.

“Usually mothers want you to settle down and get married,” Tracy remarked. “But she was different. ‘There’s nothing that you cannot do,’ she would say. ‘Just keep striving!’”

Tracy Atobatele’s achievement remains a source of wonderment to her extended family—many of whom live, still, in a small village 125-miles northeast of Lagos. “I am the first in my entire generation to become a pilot,” Tracy set forth, “and for a very long time, no one thought I could do it.”

Extremely shy as a child and young person, Tracy found that flight training changed her, making her more self-confident and assertive. Now, she has no trouble articulating her sky's-the-limit plans, which in the short term include flying for an airline. Downrange, Atobatele hopes to open her own flight school with an eye to helping others begin their own journeys to the cockpit.

Currently a commercial multi-engine pilot with some four-hundred hours in her logbook, Tracy will soon add CFI to her credentials. Ms. Atobatele’s achievements belie her humble and difficult beginnings and stand on meaningfulness and merit as an inspiration to innumerable children born into parts of the world where hope is among life’s rarities. Captain Josiah Choms, managing director of Osa Helicopters in Nigeria, said of Atobatele: “She has a very special spark. I trust she will go far in making our world a better place.”

FMI: www.kingschools.com


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