Throughout the 1960s and 70s Nigeria Airways was one of the strongest and most affluent of the African airlines. The Nigeria state was far from stable however, enduring multiple coups and civil war, and these factors gradually built into the fabric of the state and the state run airline itself. In the long run this institutional weakness would prove terminal but in the 60 and 70s Skypower was a powerful symbol of Nigeria's pride and potential.
After the loss of its own VC10 another BOAC VC10, G-ARVL, was leased as a replacement aircraft, however the airline gradually pivoted away from BOAC and the VC10. Nigeria Airways leased several Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s for short periods often for Hadj duties but also to operate on the long haul routes. Flush with oil revenues the government opted to purchase its own long haul jets and ordered new 707s. Its first arrived in 1971 and was registered 5N-ABJ. This was followed by a second, in 1973 and lastly a third in January 1978. This was a new aircraft and one of the last civil 707s built. The airline regularly leased other 707s for short periods for Haji flights. For short haul routes a pair of 737-200s arrived in 1972 (5N-ANC / AND). Fokker F28s supplemented F27s on short haul routes from 1973.
The arrival of the first 707 in 1971 actually coincided with the airline officially becoming Nigeria Airways - before then technically it was known as WAAC-Nigeria Ltd. In the 1970s Nigeria Airways was still flying high, bankrolled by the government. By the mid-70s it was time to join the widebody bandwagon and in part 2 we'll look at the airline as it reached its peak and began to sink into a sea of mismanagement, corruption and waste.