HISTORY was made at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) headquarters Abuja as 30 pilots, including the Air Force’s first female combat pilot, were decorated with their ‘wings’.
This is the first time since the early 1990s that the Air Force is organising the winging of such number of pilots. Their winging formally qualifies them to wear the pilot insignia as members of the elite corps of the Air Force.
At the event, Minister of Defence, Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed tasked Nigerians to focus more on security, saying that much needs to be done to defeat the threats against Nigerians.
Represented by Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, Mohammed noted: “The ultimate aim of Mr President’s transformation agenda is to guarantee the security and welfare of the entire citizenry. In this regard, much needs to be done to defeat the asymmetric threats of the present.
“We need to focus more on security and safety of every Nigerian regardless of tribe, religion and creed.”
The newly winged 30 pilots include 14 who were to serve as fighter jet pilots, eight as transport pilots and another eight as helicopter pilots. The fighter jet pilots are to serve with the Chinese F7-Ni and the Alpha jets.
Two of the transport pilots will serve in the Alenia Aeronautica ATR 42 maritime patrol aircraft while the six other pilots in the transport unit are yet to be deployed. Eight of the helicopter pilots are to be deployed to the Super Puma and Augusta.
Altogether, while 24 of the pilots were trained in the United States of America, six were direct recruitment by the Air Force through the Direct Short Service Course (DSSC).
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar said that by joining the rank of ‘men with wings,’ “the nation looks upon you as combat-pilots to measure up to the very high expectations. I am confident though that each of you will carry out his or her duties in the same manner as your predecessors.”
He added: “I must alert you that flying is not, and never will be, an easy call. It is more than just a job. It is a professional passion. You must bear in mind that the ideal pilot is a perfect blend of discipline and skill. Never be a show off, never confuse enthusiasm with capability and never be too proud to turn back.”
He urged them to “invest in yourselves, never stop learning, never stop growing, either professionally or personally.”
Umar added that as part of the efforts to continue to “position, transform and strategise to make the Service ever more relevant in the nation’s quest for stability and development,” 52 student pilots are undertaking training in various training institutions in the United States, Pakistan and within Nigeria.