The Nigerian Air Force has on Tuesday, graduated seven (7) pilots of Basic Flying Course 18 at the 403 Flying Training School (403 FTS) Kano.
The graduation also witnessed the decoration of a graduate of United States Air Force (USAF) Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) with NAF pilot wings; hence, in all, 8 pilots were decorated with wings having demonstrated the professional competence in handling fixed winged aircraft, bringing the total number of pilots that have been winged within the past 3 years to an unprecedented 90.
According to the NAF’s Spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, the move is a boost to the efforts of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), at ensuring enhanced operational effectiveness in the prosecution of the ongoing war against insurgency in the Northeast as well as combating other forms of criminality in other parts of the country.
In his keynote address, the Guest of Honour at the occasion, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, stated that the graduation ceremony and overwhelming resurgence of young pilots in the NAF were testimonies that his vision to reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives has indeed become a reality.
He noted that following extensive trainings, platform acquisitions and reactivation of grounded aircraft as well as resuscitation of unserviceable equipment, the NAF could now mostly fulfill its roles across the spectrum of air power tasks.
The CAS added that the rebuilding process would continue as the Service continued to strive to consolidate by enhancing its manpower capacity and improving upon the serviceability status of aircraft in NAF inventory.
Air Marshal Abubakar noted, in particular, that a lot had been achieved in the critical area of human capacity development. According to him, “We recently graduated 11 pilots from Westline Aviation of South Africa, 10 pilots from International Aviation College Ilorin while 43 student pilots have completed their ab-initio flying training at 401 FTS Kaduna.
“Meanwhile, 27 student pilots are currently undergoing ab-initio flying training at 401 FTS while 6 have just departed for helicopter training in South Africa. Furthermore, 700 Special Forces personnel have been trained for the defence of NAF mission critical assets, while many personnel are undergoing engineering and other specialized Air Force related trainings both at home and abroad”, he added.
He noted however that the strategic importance of NAF indigenous training institutions towards the attainment of his vision could not be overemphasized.
He highlighted, for instance, that the local training of the 7 pilots had saved Nigeria close to 6 Million US Dollars that would have been spent if they had been trained abroad.
He therefore commended the Commander 403 FTS and his team of instructors for their commitment and dedication in ensuring completion of the training and urged them to sustain the momentum for subsequent courses.
Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar congratulated the graduands for realizing their dreams through hard work and dedication but reminded them of the need to prepare themselves to justify the efforts and resources expended on their training.
Earlier, the Commander 403 FTS, Group Captain Nnamdi Ananaba, who welcomed dignitaries on behalf of the Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Air Training Command (ATC), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Mohammed Idris, lauded the CAS for his leadership acumen and doggedness that saw to the in-house maintenance of 2 x L-39ZA trainer aircraft which aided the successful completion of the training.
He assured the CAS of the readiness of the School to continue to keep up with its mandate which is the conduct of basic flying training on jet aircraft leading up to the award of pilot wings.
The Commander added that 403 FTS, since inception, had successfully trained 175 pilots, including some from Sister African countries such as Ghana and Zimbabwe., stating that the 7 graduating pilots had undergone intensive flying training in general aircraft handling, instrument flying, navigation, formation flying and night flying notching up an average of 149 sorties each to complete the Course.
The graduation ceremony was preceded by an aerial display involving four L-39ZA flown by the graduating pilots as well as a static display showcasing Research and Development projects executed by 403 FTS, which included a rocket launcher tester for the L-39ZA aircraft, a locally designed and constructed 3-in-1 aircraft components test bench as well as a Flight Training Management System (FTMS) software.
Other highlights of the event included the award of certificates and decoration of the new pilots with wings as well as the presentation of awards to graduating pilots that distinguished themselves on the course.
In this regard, Flying Officer Muyideen Salami emerged Best in Academics while Flying Officer Edward Wukari was given the award for the Best in Flying. Flying Officer Clement Obiahu emerged as the Best Overall graduating pilot.
Among the dignitaries at the event were the Secretary to the Kano State Government, Alhaji Usman Alhaji, who represented the Executive Governor of the State and a representative of His Royal Highness, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II, as well as serving and retired senior military officers.