By Ajogwu Jerry

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Friday graduated the first set of 18 ab-initio student pilots trained with the recently acquired Super Mushshak aircraft.

This was disclosed in a statement by the Air Force Spokesman, Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya.

He said another set of 26 student pilots was inaugurated during the ceremony, which took place at 401 Flying Training School, NAF Base, Kaduna.

Speaking during the colourful ceremony, the Guest of Honour, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who was represented by the Chief of Training and Operations at Headquarters NAF, Air Vice Marshal Nurudeen Balogun, stated that the graduation of Student Pilot Course (SPC) 43 and the inauguration of SPC 45 are indications of the premium placed on the realization of the CAS Vision’s cardinal driver, which is human capacity development.

The CAS stated that the event was epochal because the graduating officers were the first set to be trained on the new aircraft.

According to him, the design of the aircraft and its modern digital glass cockpit configuration makes it a choice for quality ab-initio training of military aviators.

He further disclosed that the training was completed less than one year after the aircraft was inducted into service, an indication that the investment of tax payers money on the acquisition of the Super Mushshak aircraft was already yielding dividend.

Air Marshal Abubakar revealed that the student pilots would undergo further training on high performance aircraft so that the NAF would have more pilots to deploy to various theatres of operation. He reiterated the commitment of the current NAF leadership to continue supporting and encouraging flying training schools in producing pilots for the NAF.

The CAS congratulated the students for their resilience and discipline during the course and urged them to sustain same attributes as they continue the next phase of their military flying training.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Commander 401 Flying Training School, Group Captain Yusuf Dari, stated that the School had, since inception, trained over 800 pilots for the NAF, Nigerian Navy and other sister African countries starting with SPC 1.

Notable among them are the present CAS and Chief of Naval Staff.

He stated that from its inception, the School had used many trainer aircraft types for the training of pilots. However, the configuration of the Super Mushshak aircraft would enhance transition to higher performance aircraft as well as lay good foundation for pilots that would be type-rated on fighter aircraft.

The course started with a 12 week ground academic phase to prepare the students for the flying phase. During the ensuing flying phase, the students were taught aerobatics, among others, to introduce them to extreme altitudes and develop their skills to retain the control of the aircraft under all conditions. One of the graduating student pilots was a female officer. The highlight of the occasion was the presentation of awards to Flying Officer AM Alkali, who carted away all the available awards namely Best in Academics, Best in Flying and Best All Round.

In a related development, a befitting hangar and a 5,900 square meters apron for the Super Mushshak aircraft was commissioned to protect the aircraft from the elements and maximize its use for the years to come. The occasion was attended by the Air Officers Commanding Air and Ground Training Commands, Commanders of co-located Units in Kaduna as well as the representative of the Director General of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency and an official from Dornier AIEP Limited.