NAF wings first female fighter, combat helicopter pilots

The Nigerian Air Force has wings its first fighter jet pilot, Flying Officer Kafayat Sanni, and first combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, during a ceremony at its Headquarters in Abuja.

They are the first fighter jet and combat pilots since the 55 years existence of the Nigerian Air Force. They are also the only females among the 13 new young pilots of the Nigerian Air Force that completed their trainings recently in the United States and South Africa, and winged at the ceremony.

The winging of the new female pilots has brought the number of female pilots in the Nigerian Air Force to six.

Also decorated during the event was the first female Air Warrant Officer, MWO Grace Tabawa Garba that was promoted recently by the Chief of the Air Staff.

Speaking at the Ceremony, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the winging ceremony was unique not because there first pilots were females, but because “they are also outstanding aviators.”

“The first female fighter pilot was trained at the United States Air Force following an excellent performance during her initial flying training course  at 401 Flying Training School in Kaduna, while the second graduated from Starlite International Training Academy. They both performed excellently well during their training,” the Air Chief said.

He said the NAF would continue to invest in human capacity building, since it is a veritable instrument for maintenance of national security, adding that NAF would continue “to discharge her constitutional responsibility of protecting Nigeria’s sovereignty and integrity by air.

The Air Chief said NAF had trained a total of 67 Instructor pilots since 2015, and winged 101 pilots within the same period.

“Currently, we have 61 pilots undergoing ab-initio/basic flying training, while 50 are undergoing various forms of advanced flying training courses both locally and abroad,” he said.

“As such we are highly delighted to see the rewards of our collective efforts. I am confident that the NAF and indeed Nigeria will soon be reaping the benefits that these pilots would undoubtedly add to our operations.”

He however charged the newly winged pilots to “stay inspired” as they open their minds to learn, “and be prepared to be guided by your senior colleagues in the field.”

“It is obvious that the Chief of the Air Staff is providing the right leadership and guidance to ensure the realization of the primary key driver of his vision, which is hinged on human capacity development,” she said.

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