By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
In its quest to more effectively and efficiently fulfill its constitutional mandate of protecting Nigeria’s airspace and ensuring peace and security of the Nation, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) today, 5 May 2020, winged another female helicopter pilot and 11 others at a low-key ceremony held at Headquarters NAF, Abuja. The winging of the pilots symbolizes their official induction into the prestigious NAF pilots’ corps. With this, the NAF has winged over 114 pilots, amongst which are 5 females, in the last 4 and half years, who are already undertaking various missions in different theaters of operation across the country.
In his remarks at the ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who expressed his delight over the successful completion of the training by the young pilots, noted that the desire of the NAF to fulfill its constitutional mandate has remained the motivating factor to continuously seek ways to regularly improve operational capacity of the Service through training and retraining. He added that the event marked another milestone in the history of the NAF as a Service. The CAS explained that the NAF had, in the last 4 and half years, remained resolute in conscientiously developing human capacity of both aircrew and non-aircrew through qualitative training to adequately reposition the Service for timely employment of Air Power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives. According to him, the 12 pilots winged today had their flying training both in Nigeria and abroad, and have completed the 9 months comprehensive flying training programme. “I am happy that we have among the 12 the second ever female helicopter pilot”, he added.
The CAS, who is himself a seasoned combat helicopter pilot, further noted that, as at 5 May 20, the NAF had successfully winged a total of 114 pilots since July 2015 while another 26 student pilots were currently undergoing or scheduled to begin basic flying training abroad. Out of these 26 Student Pilots, Air Marshal Abubakar disclosed that 2 are female officers. “Upon completion of their training, one would become the second ever female fixed-wing fighter pilot in the NAF, while the other would graduate as the first ever female Qualified Flight Instructor (QFI) in the 56 years history of the Service. We have equally increased capacity for in-country flying training. At the moment, there are also 39 student pilots undergoing various stages of training in NAF flying schools”, he added.
While reminding the new pilots that the art of flying goes beyond the innate technical ability that earned them wings, Air Marshal Abubakar charged them to remain disciplined and constantly develop a balanced mix of critical thinking, leadership skills and the right attitude. “You are obliged to possess the desire to learn and must always pay attention to details so as to avoid errors as there is no room for errors in the sky. You must develop the ability to remain calm under pressure”, he added. According to the CAS, “there are OLD pilots and there are BOLD pilots. However, there are no OLD and BOLD pilots”. He further tasked them to abide by the provisions stipulated in the Local Operating Procedures (LOPs) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and stay away from harmful narcotic substances. “The current National security situation requires that we remain highly committed and focused. We must be willing, able and ready always. I therefore urge you to be ready to respond swiftly wherever and whenever you are called upon in the defence of our National sovereignty and interests”, the CAS added.
Air Marshal Abubakar used the opportunity to reassure all Nigerians that the NAF remains fully committed to the successful execution of its constitutional roles, while appreciating the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for providing the enabling environment for the NAF to effectively discharge its constitutional mandate professionally and responsibly, even in the face of harsh economic realities. He also appreciated the Messrs Civic Helicopters Incorporated for having professionally and successfully conducted the flying training.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief of Training and Operations (CTOP), Air Vice Marshal James Gwani, noted that the winging of the 12 pilots was another milestone achievement by the current NAF administration. This, he said, would further boost the aircrew disposition of the Service and contribute to fulfilling the constitutional roles of the NAF especially in the series of ongoing air operations across the Country. He expressed confidence in the ability of the pilots as they had gone through the rigours of flying training.
It would be recalled that the NAF on 15 October, 2019, made history by decorating the first female fighter pilot, Flying Officer Kafayat Sani, and first female combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, with their wings in Abuja. The new female helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Chinelo Nwokoye, is expected to join other female pilots who are currently deployed in different theaters of operation in the country to contribute her quota in the defence of her fatherland.