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NAF continues making gender equality history with all-female crew on combat mission

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) continues its history of gender equality with the conduct of an operational Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission by an all-female crew.

On Friday, December 9th, 2011, Blessing Liman became the first female military pilot in Nigeria as she was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) as a Flying Officer, alongside 126 Direct Short Service Course 20\2011 Cadets of 325 Ground Training Group in Kaduna.

And on Tuesday, 15 October 2019, the first NAF female fighter pilot, Flying Officer Kafayat Sanni, was decorated along with 13 young officers with pilot wings after successful completion of flying training.

Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, said in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja that the mission, which was conducted on May 28 using the NAF Beechcraft KingAir ISR aircraft, had Flying Officers, Oluwabunmi Ijelu and Genevieve Nwaogwugwu as Captain and Co-Pilot, respectively.

He said on the mission, were also Sergeant Njoku Patience as the Airborne Tactical Observation System (ATOS) mission operator and Lance Corporal Shawulu Godiya as the on-board technician.

“It is noteworthy that Flying Officer Ijelu is the first female officer to become a Captain on a NAF aircraft. The aircraft was also marshaled by a female Marshaller, Aircraft woman David Precious.

“The mission, which was preceded by the customary pre-flight briefing, originated from the 307 Executive Airlift Group (307 EAG), at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport and covered selected areas of interest in Niger State and its environs, where intelligence that would support NAF air interdiction missions as well as the operations of ground forces was gathered.”

Daramola said the Commander 307 EAG, Air Commodore Francis Edosa, while welcoming the all-female crew from the mission, applauded them for displaying a high level of professionalism.

Edosa said that the feat was only made possible as a result of the commitment of Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, to providing a level playing field for all personnel, whether male or female, to thrive and realise their dreams and aspirations in service to the Nation.

This, Edosa said, had translated into tangible positive results.

He thanked the CAS for giving the female personnel the opportunity to prove their worth in hitherto male-dominated specialties in the NAF.

Daramola said that within the past 4 and half years of the current NAF leadership, there has been a surge in the involvement of female personnel in areas that were previously the preserve of men.

He noted that five female pilots have been winged within the period, bringing the total number of female pilots in the NAF to 7.

Daramola said many other female officers and airwomen were also excelling in their various fields of specialisation including Regiment and Special Forces, Aircraft/Armament Engineers and Technicians as well as Air Traffic Controllers, amongst others.

He said the NAF’s objective in this regard was to maximise all of the potentials of Nigeria’s vast human resource pool, male and female, to ensure the effective, efficient and timely employment of Air Power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.

Before passing through 303 Flying Training School, Nigerian pilots undergo ab initio training at 301 Flying Training School (FTS) at Kaduna. The unit flies Air Beetle and Dornier aircraft for ab initio and transport pilot training. Since inception, the unit has produced more than 600 student pilots for the NAF, Nigerian Navy and some other African countries.

For helicopter pilot training, students complete primary training at 301 FTS before moving to 305 FTS at Enugu.

Before the establishment of 305 Flying Training School, helicopter pilots were sent overseas. In 1986 the NAF acquired Hughes 300C helicopters for 305 FTS, but they were withdrawn and replaced by Mi-34s.

Nigeria ordered a dozen AgustaWestland AW109E/LUHs, which are being used for training at 305 FTS. The first of these arrived February 2011.

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