Finally, NAF Unveils First Female Fighter, Helicopter Pilots

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) made history today, 15 October 2019, with the decoration of the first female fighter pilot, Flying Officer Kafayat Sanni, and first female combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, with their pilot wings. The 2 female NAF pilots were decorated alongside 11 other young officers after successful completion of their flying training courses. With today’s ceremony, the NAF has successfully winged over 100 pilots in the last 4 years, who are now adding impetus to the fight against insurgency and other internal security operations in the country. During the ceremony, the NAF also decorated the first female Air Warrant Officer (AWO) in the Armed Forces of Nigeria, Grace Garba, with her new rank. AWO Garba was promoted to the highest rank in the Non-Commissioned Officers’ cadre for her exceptional hard work and contributions to the Service over the years.

Speaking at the event, the Special Guest of Honor (SGOH), the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Dame Pauline Tallen, noted that the winging of the first ever female fighter pilot and first female combat helicopter pilot produced by the NAF, is a commendable feat. She added that the event attests to the laudable achievements and transformation taking place in the NAF and indeed portrays the Service in good light. She affirmed that the NAF is a gender friendly institution which has continually strived to provide equal opportunity for both male and female personnel, adding that this would, no doubt, encourage all personnel to strive to achieve excellence in their career. She remarked that it was obvious that the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) has provided the right leadership and guidance to ensure the realization of the primary key driver of his Vision, which is hinged on human capacity development. “We are indeed proud of the milestones attained by the NAF and the achievements of the Chief of the Air Staff,” she added.

According to her, the winging of the pilots is a demonstration of the preparedness of the NAF towards meeting Nigeria’s national security needs. While commending the newly winged pilots, the Minister emphasized the need for them to continue to work hard in order to add value to the operations of the NAF. She further thanked President Muhammadu Buhari, who in spite of competing economic needs in the Country, continues to support and give special attention to the operational requirements of the Armed Forces.

Earlier in his remarks, the CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, noted that the ceremony indeed marked another milestone in the history of the NAF and expressed his delight over the achievement. He added that he was particularly happy because 2 of the 13 pilots winged were female Regular Combatant officers. According to him, the 2 female pilots were celebrated, not only because they are female officers, but also outstanding aviators. He revealed that the first female fighter pilot was trained in the United States, following an excellent performance during her initial flying training course at 401 Flying Training School Kaduna, while the second graduated from Starlite International Academy.

Air Marshal Abubakar further affirmed the readiness of the NAF to continue to invest in human capacity building, since the Service is a veritable instrument for maintenance of national security, stating that the NAF would keep on discharging its constitutional responsibility of protecting Nigeria’s sovereignty and integrity by air. According to him, the records indicate that as at today, the NAF has trained a total of 67 Instructor pilots since 2015. Furthermore, with the winging of the pilots today, the NAF had produced over a hundred 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 added. He expressed confidence that the NAF and indeed Nigeria would soon reap the benefits that these pilots would undoubtedly add to NAF operations. He further reassured all Nigerians that the NAF remains fully committed to the successful execution of its constitutional roles and will strive to continually meet its statutory responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of the Nation, acting singly or jointly with sister Services and other security agencies.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief of Training and Operations (CTOP), Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, reiterated that the new pilots will no doubt boost the pilot manning capacity of the Service as their deployment to the various NAF platforms will enhance the fulfillment of the constitutional roles of the NAF, especially in the ongoing operations in the North East and North West. He added that, under the leadership of Air Marshal Abubakar, the NAF has trained 22,841 personnel, comprising of 2,414 foreign trained and 20,427 locally-trained personnel, in different specialties over the last 4 years.

Air Commodore
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force