Remembering Captain Prince A. Page, Liberia’s First Certified Military Pilot, First International Airline Captain

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In the early 1970s, Capt. Prince Page flew solo twice across the Atlantic Ocean

President George Weah’s first Armed Forces Day Address last Monday, in which he announced plans to revive military Aviation in Liberia has caused the Daily Observer to remember the nation’s first certified military pilot, first international airline captain and Liberia’s most celebrated pilot. His name is Captain Prince Augustus Page.

In his brief mention of military aviation, here is what President Weah said: “Our administration will reintroduce the R.O.T.C. program in all our major universities to attract the best Liberian professionals in engineering, medicine, aviation and education. The new military, as a professional institution, should have the best doctors, pilots, engineers and specialists in training and teaching.”

Captain Prince Page, an Auto Mechanics graduate of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Class of 1959, was throughout his four years at BWI an A student. He and his several classmates who in January 1960 took the entrance examination at the University of Liberia (UL) were among those who topped that exam.

Prince wanted to study Structural Engineering and help build Liberia’s roads and bridges. But that same year, the war in the Congo (former Belgian Congo) broke out and he and several of his BWI classmates were immediately conscripted into the Liberian Frontier Force (LFF) and sent to the Congo as part of the Liberian Peace Keeping Contingent there.

According to a book on the BWI Class of ’59, shortly to be published by the Class Historian, Kenneth Y. Best, these BWI boys were recruited mainly because they had undergone four years of R.O.T.C. (Reserved Officers Training Corps) at BWI and were now Second Lieutenants in the LFF.

They were chosen, in addition, because these BWI graduates had been trained on campus in several of the technical and vocational skills urgently needed at that very moment to help the peacekeeping efforts in the Congo.

These BWI boys had been trained in Auto Mechanics, Carpentry, Electricity, Electronics, Machinery and Plumbing. Once in the Congo, it was they who became responsible for repairing and maintaining the military’s radios, jeeps, trucks and other military equipment.

Following their tour of duty in the Congo, the Liberian contingent, mostly members of the BWI Class of ’59, returned home and immediately started rising in the LFF (now Armed Forces of Liberia-AFL).

Two of them, Lt. Paul H. Perry and Lt. Mansfield Yancy, were later promoted to General and Major, respectively.

Lt. Prince Page and Lt. Arthur Bedell, both of whom had studied Auto Mechanics at BWI, were assigned to the Air Wing of the LFF and became pilots. In 1961 the AFL sent Second Lieutenant Prince A. Page to Fort Benning, Georgia, USA for Advanced Motor Officers Training (AMOT).

That is where the genius of the Class of ’59 continued to show its colors. Prince topped his class, which included not only captains and majors from the USA and around the world, but also a First Lieutenant graduate of America’s renowned West Point Military Academy.

Following Prince’s graduation at Fort Benning, where he topped the class of 53 officers from all over the world, including the United States, the Department of the Army (DA), recommended to the Liberian government that the AFL do three things to honor this celebrated member of the BWI Class of ’59.

The first recommendation was that he be presented a Citation, and the AFL stage a parade in honor of Lt. Prince A. Page, because that is what is done in America when a military officer excels in his class. The second was that Lt. Page be considered for promotion; and the third, that he be given “priority further CONUS (Continental U.S.) training.”

Army Parade for Lt. Page: Upon his return home, the parade was indeed held in Lt. Prince Page’s honor at the Camp Schieffelin Military Base near Monrovia.

Present at the parade were the Secretary of Defense, Robert A. Brewer, Chief of Staff, General Albert T. White, the Chief of the US Military Mission in Liberia, Col. White, and other AFL senior staff officers.

Following the parade, Prince was assigned to set up the Auto Mechanics Depot at Camp Schiefflin. There he trained Liberian soldiers in auto mechanics. But because most of them were illiterate, Lt. Page had to come up with a plan. His plan was to completely disassemble a vehicle, identify the components, train the soldiers to identify, repair and test each working component; then reassemble the vehicle, restart the engine and ensure that it ran to military specification (spec).

Based on the recommendation from the US Department of the Army, Prince attended two additional military schools, the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, USA; and the Fort Rucker in Alabama, where he was certified in Tactical Military Training and Instrument Rating.

That made him Liberia’s first Certified Military Pilot. On return Lt. Page was appointed Executive Office (EXO) of the Liberia Reconnaissance (Recon) Unit. One of the unforgettable accomplishments of First Lieutenant Page for Liberia was undertaking the seismographic survey of the entire country, along with a technician from the US Mines and Geology.

Such information identifies all the different minerals that are sub-surface (under the earth), including oil and gas. After First Lieutenant Page left the AFL, he became an Airline Captain, the highest position in Aviation.

Among the few airplanes Captain Page flew and trained others to fly are the following: DC-3; Turbo Prop F-27; jets, Gulfstream-2, Boeing 737; Air Bus 310, and Air Bus 300-600; Lockheed 1011, which carried 399 passengers at the speed of Mach .85 (the speed of sound), at an altitude of 35,000 feet.

In all, Captain Page flew jets for Liberia, Nigeria, where he worked for 11 and a half years, six years in Saudi Arabia, and later in the United States, England and Iceland. He received the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Licenses in each of those countries.

He soloed twice across the Atlantic but probably Captain Prince Page’s most celebrated accomplishments came in the early 1970s when he flew solo (meaning alone in an airplane) twice across the Atlantic Ocean.

The first was when he flew President Tolbert’s propeller plane, a Cessna 402, which the Liberian government had purchased for Presidential travel. Captain Page flew this solo thru the North Atlantic from the USA to Liberia.

The second was a Piper 28, also a twin engine propeller plane, which he flew solo from the US thru Brazil via the South Atlantic to Liberia.

The plane belonged to Liberian entrepreneur and Agriculture Minister J.T. Phillips. This means that Captain Page surpassed even Charles Lindberg, the American pilot who in 1921 became the first person to fly solo across the North Atlantic, from New York to Paris.

In Captain Page’s case, he flow solo across both the North and the South Atlantic! To date, Captain Page is probably the only African pilot to have flown solo twice over the North and South Atlantic.

What an Aviation Captain! But Liberia has never honored Captain Page’s exceptional and unique accomplishments. It is, however, not too late. Captain Page, at 79, lives in Mississippi.

Captain Prince Augustus Page also flew jets for Nigeria Airways, during which time he was trained along with Nigerian pilots in France to fly the Airbus. Captain Page told his classmate, Kenneth Y. Best, author of the History of the Class of ‘59, that the Airbus is a European consortium (France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy), which revolutionized the cockpit crew concept that eliminated the requirement for a flight engineer.

This was achieved by eliminating the analogue instruments and replacing them with the cathode ray tube (TV screen) and automation. Captain Page later flew jets for Saudi Arabia, the USA, England and Iceland, before retiring.

Today Prince, the passionate auto mechanic which he became at BWI in 1959, now at 79, too old to fly, has followed his constant fascination with 18 wheeler trucks that dominate the American highway system.

So one day few years ago he undertook training in these 18-wheeler trucks. There, the brilliant Prince again topped his class, especially when he outperformed all his classmates in reversing and parking the 18-wheel vehicle!

And so that is how he is spending his retirement time, driving an 18-wheeler hauling farm produce in the Southern United States and earning a living.

He told his classmate and brother Kenneth that he (Captain Page) is not financially well off, though he had worked all those years as a pilot, most especially because he could not get his money out of the country in which he served the longest as a pilot, Nigeria—for 11 and a half years. Born in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Prince is still fluent in his native tongue, Bassa.

He is anxious to return home and help improve Aviation among his fellow Liberians, and train Liberian military pilots.

Authors

24 COMMENTS

  1. Yes indeed what an accomplishment! People like Captain Page should not go unrecognized not just by the Liberia but by the world. I hope the government will do all it can to get him home to pass that knowledge before it is to late…

  2. People saying they don’t want Lebanese to become citizens in Liberia, but this guy is not really Liberian, he looks Lebanese.

    • Why??? Because he’s light skinned and looks confident. You are either a racist or a crab trying to climb over the other crabs in the basket to get to the top of something. Be sure you don’t fall over the edge. Shame.

  3. Besides being a great pilot, fervent patriot, and quintessential gentleman, Prince also packs a biting sense of humor. I remember our “rendezvous” in Paris when he flew for Saudi Arabian airlines and I was resident in France. Our Liberia could certainly profit from his vast experience. Blessings, Prince.

  4. I am so proud of Mr. Paige. As a little girl growing up in Liberia, I remembered him so well.
    This is one of our own Liberian who has shown the world that anything is possible. He used to be a personal friend of someone I knew and is very special to me. Please do not let all of this knowledge die, pass it on to someone who can carry his legacy on. Pray that God Blessed you, Mr. Paige, with your heart desire.

  5. Great fellow, we need him to head the Liberian Aviation Authority; just my take on this.
    Prince, fellow member of the freshman class of 1960 of the University of Liberia, you have earned your wings; you have made the Motherland proud. God bless.

  6. Yes indeed, Captain Page is a great man. We met last year in Dallas, USA during BWIAA convention when Hon. Best and him were joking about their days on BWI in the 50s. I, just a 1986 graduate from BWI, I could not stop looking at Captain Page that I never heard about until Hon. Best talked about him. But when he spoke, I could not stop thinking what a great assets God give to Liberia. I still got the picture I took with Kenneth Best, Winston and him during that first meeting. I still remember hearing him telling his classmates that he is ready to do anything for Liberia. Can he be put on the Liberia Aviation Authority Board of Directors? Can he be recruited to represent the Liberian Team on the reconstruction of the RIA, keeping an eye on the Chinese?.

  7. Very fond memories of Prince Page. He was one of the pilots who flew us to and from Robertsport when we attended boarding school; St. John’s. The air strip was on the beach, and the runway was constructed of steel mats that were remnants from the military installation in Tallah during WW II; a terrifying experience for youngsters who had never flown in a plane, let alone a single engine Cessna. He always sensed our fear of landing on the beach in Robertsport, but was such a jovial and effervescent individual that the trips were more pleasurable. What a guy!!

  8. The silent majority instructs this new Kru President to request this Bassa 79 old pilot return to train pilots to handle the new planes to be purchased by the Liberian nation. The man does not necessarily need an administrative position to help the nation within the scope of his time frame. There are many career politicians who only think about power and forget what they have technically achieved. For example, research doctors come home and invent nothing, teach the illiterate nothing, found no cure for the deadly sickness, but yet jump in positions to steal government money and run in and out with luxuries. Another reason why the M’ambas call all such, pallets. The auto mechanic pilot could stay right in his kitchen and even show my airplane pilot how to fly anywhere on this planet. Do not reply my box. Tell the Liberian people.
    Gone to silence.

  9. Best ever read’ i look forward to meeting u sir… i’m one of the 2 pilots the armed forces of liberia has currently, n i’m glad to stumble on this news… will love to ve him to mentor us, i think his son is in d AFL he once’s told me of him jus casually, i ll meet his son for more updates on meeting his daddy.., God bles u sir, u re a legend n ur legacy ll live on

  10. Great brother. I knew Prince years ago when he lived near Jakarta and not far from the Port of Monrovia. Followed his career diligently.we had great times together.may he rest in peace. Thx tons for what he did in putting Liberia on the world map.

  11. I believe Prince Page will BETTER SERVE as the “Director Of Liberia’s Aviation”. I remember those days, when WOMEN were simply in love with Prince. He was quite flamboyant. Well done Prince… You are one of a kind. My highest ESTEEM!

  12. I remember Captain Page very well. I was a young Agent of the National Bureau of Investigation when Mr. Page flew us as a team of investigators to Harper, Maryland County in 1967. I was so fascinated by this young Liberian pilot that from that moment I wanted to pursue civil aviation. I thank the author for a well written article on Mr. Page’s life. It is a good idea that President Weah’s plans includes the revitalization of the Air Wing of the country. Liberia will benefit from the vast knowledge of this great man.

  13. I am so proud of captain Page’s accomplishments, he serves as an inspiration to Liberia and Africa. Thank you for sharing his legacy, I hope the Liberian government highlights his story also.
    Baryoe

  14. Clarence Dennis, I doubt that this name was given to you at birth. Obviously, you do not cherished history. Here you are expressing racial apathy out of ignorance. Just maybe, you should consider going to school if you having done so. This man was not just recognized by Liberians but also by the U.S for his intelligence in his selected field. By the way, who told you that all Liberians were black or supposed be? If you hate the Lebanese so much; why not ask your President to sent them where they came from, and see what happen to your economic.

    • Mr. M. Saad: “See what happen to your(LIBERIAN) economic.” ??? Perhaps, it will get better. What have the Lebanese done for Liberia? You tell me/us. They have enormously enriched themselves and have drained the Liberian ECONOMY. By the way, how many Liberian Shop Keepers do you have in Lebanon? I’ve seen Lebanese taking brief cases full of $20. Bills out of Liberia… Where else? Only in Liberia…

  15. I know Capt. Page from small. If I can remember, he lived on Benson Street with one of his aunts. Later on, I got to know him when he flew Pres. Tolbert, at which time he trained and flew with Capt. Johnny Weefur.. He is a very nice person to know. With his skills, and the shortage of trained human resources in Liberia, Capt. Page could open the first Aviation School at UL. LONG LIVE PRINCE! Prince when ever you pass through Memphis, TN, call me at: 901 937 7921.

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