Where Eagles Dare: Dominica-born Ethiopian Airlines captain blazes trail in African skies and beyond

Dominica born Ethiopian Airlines Captain Ronald Hodge, a  1981 graduate of the Saint Mary’s Academy

It is the summer of 2019, and the gloom of the frightful Covid 19 pandemic had not yet settled on our world. One bright Sunday morning, I called Rwanda Airlines pilot David Johnson of Dominica – a distinguished and experienced aviator. After our usual chat about the governance of our island and related matters, I reminded David that we must do an interview. Irving Andre and I have always felt it the duty of Pont Casse Press  to record 0ur people’s history – especially those who have accomplished much.

Captain Ronald Hodge, next to an Ethiopian 767 he pilots

Such an interview with David would, in my mind, inspire young people to greatness by following role models such as himself. I urged David towards such an interview by stating, “David, you must be the only Dominican pilot flying African skies.” “No,” he quickly responded. “I am not. Another Dominican is doing what I am doing. Captain Hodge of Ethiopian Airlines flies all over Africa and beyond,” he went on. I had not heard of Captain Hodge’s aviation exploits and was so fascinated that I  immediately researched his profile online.

Mr. & Mrs. Ronald and Gaile Hodge

Within minutes I had found Hodge on Linked In. I quickly messaged him and in no time, my phone rang. A very resonant and authoritative voice came on. “What’s going on, Gaibu?’ He said. It was Hodge.

Time and distance may have dimmed my memory, but Hodge was on target. He reminded me that we knew each other and that his mother, Agnes Hodge, had been a nurse. He further stated that his mother had worked with my mother, Alberta Christian, when they were young nurses in the early 1960s.

Hodge was born in 1965 from the union between Agnes Hodge and bus driver Joseph Hodge.

“How did you get to be a Captain at Ethiopian Airlines, ” I asked? Captain Hodge went on to tell a fascinating story. He was born at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Goodwill, Dominica. He then related his time at Teacher Rose’s famous Fields Lane Kindergarten in Roseau, Dominica. Then it is off to Roseau Boys School, Goodwill Junior High School, and the forbidding Common Entrance, which one needed to pass to enter High School back in the day. Hodge passes and gains entry to the well-regarded Saint Mary’s Academy over which principal  Egbert Germaine and the Christian Brothers linked to Iona College in New Rochelle, New York preside. It is an excellent education that Hodge receives, and he appreciates it. A 1981 graduate of the SMA, Hodge works with the Ministry of Communications and Works, Post Office and then Customs. He associates with local pilots flying Leeward Island Air Transport (LIAT) such as Captain Derek Perryman, David Armour, and others such as Paul Edwards, Ian Pringle, and CK Shillingford. He credits these men, especially Perryman and Armour,  for encouraging his growing desire to embark on a career in aviation.

Bitten by the flight bug, Hodge resigns from the public service when he is denied study leave to get a pilot’s license. With his eyes set on Sowell Aviation in Panama City, Florida, Hodge tries to get a student loan. One by one, every bank turns him down. One bank manager even laughs at Hodge and ridicules his dream. That scoffer of a banker asks Hodge  “Why not law, medicine or agriculture?” Undaunted, the determined Hodge confides in his stalwart Mum. Committed to the success of her son, Hodge states “My mother was 100% behind me. She mortgaged her house and had to carry a stiff regular business loan; one with a higher interest rate and zero grace period as compared to more affordable students’ loans. Anyway, I finished the eight-month pilot license course in four months and even got a partial refund, all of which I used to help a fellow Dominican who was at Sowell Aviation with me.”

Captain Hodge in Ethiopian Airlines uniform

In an inspirational interview conducted during a business trip to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, Hodge gave fascinating details of his more than twenty years in aviation.

Links to the full interview (Parts 1 and 2) can be found below.

Hodge has flown turboprops across African skies and heavy Boeing 767s across Europe, Africa, and Asia. In both Kenya and Ethiopia, Captain Hodge has been a flight instructor. Indeed, he once served as a Flight Examiner with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority when he worked for DAC Aviation in that country. In 2012 he completed his master’s degree in Aviation Business Management from Moi University in Kenya. To date, Captain Hodge has over 18,000 hours of flight time. A man of faith and self-confidence,  Captain Hodge is a role model for those young and old. His motto is “Stick with your dream. Never give up.”

Captain Hodge is a gifted part of the African Diaspora. Those who embrace sustainable development philosophy believe our future resides in an honest and robust engagement with our diaspora. Such an engagement must always be based on meritocracy and national development, not ruinous partisanship.

Ethiopian Airlines was born of African Diaspora input under the wise leadership of that nation’s legendary Emperor Haile Selassie I. Selassie promoted African American aviator John Robinson to Colonel and the first Commandant of the new Ethiopian  Air Force. Robinson fought for Ethiopia in World War II to defeat the fascist invasion. Encouraged by Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) local representative JR Ralph Casimir and the Friends of Abyssinia group,  Dominicans also aided Ethiopia in that struggle. Christened as the “Brown Condor” for his aerial exploits, Robinson gave his life in the development movement he had engaged for Ethiopia. He was also the pioneer behind Ethiopian Airlines. Today, a statue of Robinson stands in its training center. Our very own Captain Ronald Hodge carries on that worthy tradition of Diasporans in the development process, exemplified by John Robinson.

Emperor Selassie’s wisdom birthed a dynamic and technologically sophisticated multibillion-dollar aviation giant in Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian Airlines is a global leader in aviation and one of the safest carriers. We desire that other leaders take note of that history of meaningful diaspora engagement and act in a manner so worthy and wise.

Captain Hodge is married to the former Gaile Giraud, an interior decorator. It is of note that Gaile’s Dad was Julian Giraud – a well-known pioneer in Dominica’s aviation history.

Well done, Captain Hodge! Like John Robinson “The Brown Condor,” you have flown where only eagles dare. Stay well. Be safe. Keep inspiring. Keep soaring. You have made us proud!

God bless your path with success!

 

The full interview with Captain Hodge (Parts 1 and 2) can be seen here:

https://youtu.be/N56kA4WBCpw – Part 1

https://youtu.be/BU3b2H2oGn0 – Part 2

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8 Comments

  1. martha lugay
    September 23, 2021

    I’m so proud of you

  2. Dominican to the bone
    September 23, 2021

    Congratulations to you brother Hodge. You are always a very humble guy in spite of your achievements. May the good LORD continue to bless you bro.

    Why rhetorical question is why Dominicans have to migrate to excel? Very inspiring story but I would also like to hear of Dominicans who excel in Dominica.

  3. Kevin f
    September 23, 2021

    Congratulations Mr Ronald Hodge.you are such an inspiration to young dominicans particularly those interested in the aviation industry. I wish you and your family all the best.And also credit goes to gabriel Christian for this brilliant biography .

  4. Bwa-Banday
    September 22, 2021

    Many thanks Gaibu for bringing this to light. Man, reading this brought tears to my eyes. Imagine resigning your dead end job to pursue your dream and some imbecile at a bank making fun of you? The nerve of these so called professionals who sadly still limit our youth today. Very well done Captain, Very well done! Your mom must be smiling looking down at you.

    Hey it makes me even more proud, let me say prouder than proud to know you are one of the sons of SMA. Of course, it shows that beyond our school years, “Smartest Men Alive” continue to rule :wink: :wink: . Oh hail to thee all hail! I do hope our beloved Bro. Germain reads this because I know how proud he will be knowing what you have accomplished. Take a bow my brother, take a big bow. May Jah continue to bless, guide and keep you safe as you fly the sometimes unfriendly skies. Stay focused!

  5. K
    September 22, 2021

    great testimony

  6. Garçon
    September 22, 2021

    Very inspirational story. It’s only sad that these attitudes he faced persist today. I experienced the same ridicule from banks and government ministers when I made my dreams know and sought help. Either through malice or shallow mindedness, these days people always want to limit others. Thank God I have realized my dreams. Good for you Mr. Hodge, I know how you feel now that you have made it despite the stumbling blocks in your way. My Dreams by Nesbeth is a great celebratory song when these people come to mind.
    Young people you can be whatever you want. Let no one limit you with their backwardness or wickedness.

  7. GOODWILL
    September 22, 2021

    Such an inspiring life story!!! Captain Hodge is a model for all young people aspiring to fulfill their dreams. Never give up. Kudos to his deceased Mom who believed in him and supported him all the way.

  8. Amelia W.
    September 22, 2021

    Great inspiring story for younger Dominicans to consider as a life dream. Well written too. Thank you! Continued success Captain Hodge.

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