Yemi Adedeji, Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) says it has produced a total of 72 pilots in two years as part of its human capacity development efforts.
Among the newly winged pilots were two female Regular Combatant officers who qualified as pilots on fixed wing aircraft.
Sadique Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff, who disclosed this said it was the first time in the history of the NAF that female Regular Combatant officers would be decorated with wings as qualified pilots.
He also disclosed that by February 2018, 14 more pilots, 10 from the International Aviation College, Ilorin and 4 from South Africa, would complete their flying training.
According to him ““by the end of February therefore, the NAF would have successfully winged 72 pilots. Furthermore, there are an additional 74 pilots that are training to qualify for awards of NAF wings. Out of this number, 64 are training in Nigeria while the remaining 10 are training outside Nigeria.”
“The NAF has also trained 23 Instructor Pilots in the last 2 years while 7 are currently undergoing training abroad with 3 in the US and 4 in Jordan,” he added.
Abubakar stated further that the human capacity development efforts of the NAF had greatly enhanced NAF force projection capability beyond the shores of the country, stressing that the air power capability of the NAF would further be enhanced upon the receipt of additional helicopter gunships procured for the Service by the Federal Government.
The CAS therefore charged the newly inducted pilots to be prepared for the onerous task ahead of them as they fit into the operational flying environment. Air Marshal Abubakar also urged the new pilots to key into the progressive tread in the Service and be ready for duty wherever and whenever they are called to defend the nation’s sovereignty and those values it holds dearly.
Earlier, Paul Dike, a retired Air Chief Marshal , said that the NAF cannot achieve its statutory role of defending the territorial integrity of the country by air without having adequate pilots.
He said the role of air power in today’s security environment cannot be over emphasised, as it had become the decisive factor in determining the outcome of any combat operations.
The former CDS stated that the new pilots were coming into the NAF at a unique time when the country was facing numerous security challenges.
The newly winged pilots started their flying career at 401 Flying Training School in Kaduna in November 2016. Upon completion of their ab-initio flying training in Nigeria, they proceeded to South Africa for the basic flying course that qualified them as license pilots, hence the winging ceremony.