The Nigerian Airforce on Wednesday ‘Winged’ eleven (11) new pilots who have successfully completed the basic flying course at the Westline Aviation Centre in South Africa, with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar disclosing that by the end of February 2018 when ten (10) other pilots complete their training, the NAF would have successfully ‘Winged 72 pilots in 2 years.
The pilots, 6 of whom are Helicopter Pilots and 5 of whom are Fixed Winged Pilots, include two female officers who are the first female combatant pilots in the Nigerian Airforce.
Speaking at the ‘Winging’ ceremony, the CAS said, “Having successfully qualified at 401 Flying Training School in Kaduna in November 2016, these young officers were sent to South Africa for basic Flying Training.
“Today we are gathered to celebrate with them and their family members having successfully graduated as pilots. I am particularly delighted to welcome you all to this Winging Ceremony for 2 reasons.
“Firstly, this is the first time we are winging 2 female officers as qualified pilots. Secondly I am delighted to have in our midst a distinguished aviator a former Chief of Air Staff and former Chief of Defence Staff (Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike) who has left behind an indelible mark on the sands of history of the Service and indeed the Armed Forces of Nigeria as the Special Guest of Honour.
“Section 217 Sub-Section 2b of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended assigned the role of protecting Nigeria’s Sovereignty and integrity by Air on the Nigerian Air Force.
“To discharge this responsibility, Nigerian Air Force relies on air assets fighter aircraft, helicopter gunships and other platforms to discharge this responsibility.
“Air assets alone however without adequately trained pilots cannot enable Nigerian Air Force to effectively discharge this Constitutional responsibility.
“It is against this background that NAF embarked on human capacity development in all NAF Specialties. These achievements will no doubt save the nation scarce resources required to train outside.
“This human capacity development effort has greatly enhanced our force projection capability not only within Nigeria, particularly the North East but we have projected force beyond our borders.
“Therefore, we are exceedingly delighted to have before us today the products of this effort. We are expecting additional 10 pilots from International Aviation College in Ilorin and 4 pilots from South Africa to complete their training in February 2018.
“By 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.
“In the area of Instructor Pilot Training, the NAF has trained 23 Instructor Pilots in the last 2 years while 7 are currently undergoing training abroad with 3 in US and 4 in Jordan.
“Our training efforts in Kaduna have been greatly enhanced with the acquisition of 10 Supermushshak trainer aircraft.
“Also in Kano, all hands are on deck to increase the number of Serviceable L-39ZA aircraft for basic fighter training.
“Due to increase in number of Serviceable Alpha-Jets, the NAF has commenced advanced fighter training locally in Nigeria.
“This capability will further be enhanced soon when we receive additional helicopter gunships procured for us by the Federal Government.
“Similarly, ongoing efforts to repair the grounded aircraft locally with technical partners will not only make us regain our past glory but will further enhance our maintenance capability as these reactivation of platforms locally is giving many of our technicians the opportunity for On the Job Training.
The CAS continued, “If these local repair efforts are sustained, very soon we should have the ability to conduct major overhauls of our aircraft thus conserving scarce resources.
“To the young pilots that are about to be winged today, I say be prepared for the onerous task ahead of you as you fit into the operational flying environment.
“For you the journey to fruitful flying careers has just begun and you must not rest on your oars. You must open your minds to learn and be mentored by your captains and seniors in the field.
“Flying Operations requires a lot of discipline, hard work and diligence to make you succeed. Therefore, do not forget the 3 Ds to success, which are “Drive, Discipline and Desire to be better every day”.
“As you are being inducted as pilots at a period Nigerian Air Force platforms are actively engaged in flying activities, you must therefore key into the progressive treads of the Service and be ready for duty wherever and whenever you are called to defend our national sovereignty and those values we hold dear”..
He appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for giving the NAF an enabling environment to discharge ‘our constitutional responsibilities’ professionally and responsibly.
“Let me also appreciate our credible partner Westline Aviation South Africa through whom we accomplished the training of these young men and women.
“We look forward to more fruitful collaborations. Let me reassure all Nigerians that the Nigerian Air Force remains fully committed to the successful execution of its constitutional roles and will continue to meet its statutory responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of the nation, acting singly or in unison as appropriate with surface forces and other security agencies”.
In a brief address, the former CAS and Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike (rtd) expressed joy about a bright future for the Nigerian Airforce noting that since the basic objective of the Airforce is the territorial defence of the country by air, he was happy to observe the investment in human capacity development.
“In as much as the Army and the Navy are equally important in the defence of the nations’ territorial integrity, they cannot function effectively if air power is not provided” Dike said.
He was particularly elated that the NAF was partnering with sister African countries in the training of pilots saying, “It is highly commendable. This is because in the past, we also trained pilots from some African Countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia and other countries.
To the new pilots, Air Chief Marshal Dike who was described by the CAS as a first class aviator, said, “You now have wonderful opportunities. My advice is that you should be bold, confident, motivated to fly. Your graduation and comments so far, tells me there is indeed a great future for the Nigerian Airforce.