By Yahaya Isah
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) graduated additional 29 pilots, who completed their flying training at the 401Flying Training School (401FTS) in Kaduna on Thursday.
This is contained in a statement by the Director of Public Relations and Information, NAF Headquarters, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, in Abuja.
The new pilots are members of the 66 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), comprising 27 male and two female officers.
They began training as flight cadets of NDA on Jan. 7, 2019.
They were members of Student Pilots Course 46 (SP 46).
With their graduation, it means NAF had successfully graduated 145 student pilots from 401 FTS in the last five years.
Daramola quoted the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, as congratulating the new pilots for being able to withstand the rigours, hard work and the stress associated with the training.
Abubakar reiterated his administration’s drive to continually develop an adequate capacity for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to national security imperatives remains on course.
CAS said that the pilots had successfully conducted their flying training on both the Diamond 40 and Super Mushshak aircraft types.
This, according to him, is a positive deviation from what was obtainable in the past.
He attributed the feat achieved during the training to the dedication of the ground instructors, instructor pilots, prompt/effective aircraft maintenance and availability of aviation fuel.
Abubakar, however, enjoined the new pilots to maintain the same attitude of dogged determination as they proceed to the next phase of military flying training.
“There is more work to be done to earn your wings.
“I urge you to continue to exhibit the right aptitude and attitude as well as determination to improve your flying skills,’’ CAS said.
He recalled that the grossly inadequate number and the unsuitability of the platform for aerobatics and other unusual manoeuvres had significantly diminished the ability of the service to conduct military flying training.
“Today, we have 15 platforms with a wide range of capabilities enabling quality training.
“This has empowered 401 FTS to train a total of 145 student pilots from 2015 to date.
“Additionally, 24 Instructor Pilots and 15 UAV pilots have also been trained within the same period.
These numbers represent the attainment of a remarkable feat that had previously eluded the NAF.’’
Abubakar commended the Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command (AOC ATC), AVM Musa Mukhtar, and the Commander 401 FTS, Air Commodore Ahmed Idris, as well as his entire staff for their efforts in realising the feat.
“The ability of NAF to wing 114 pilots in the last five years has led to a vibrant application of Air Power in combating the security challenges facing the country.
“The multiplier effect has been a boost, especially in the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts in the North-East and the fight against armed banditry in the North-West and North-Central zones of the country,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Commander 401 FTS, Idris commended CAS for his unrelenting support to the unit.
The commander added that the course was the first of its kind to have flown two different platforms; the Diamond 40 and Super Mushshak aircraft during the training.
He said the unit achieved such feat even when it had to contend with other demanding tasks.
Idris remarked that alongside the training of student pilots, the unit was also actively involved in airlift/VIP flights and Intelligence Surveillance/Reconnaissance (ISR) missions in support of ‘Operation Thunder Storm’.
According to him, the student pilots began their training with ground academic phase, which lasted for 16 weeks, followed by various stages of the flying phases.