A former military intelligence officer, Captain Umar Babangida, (retd.), has said that it was wrong for Flight Lieutenants in the Nigerian Air Force with little or no experience to be assigned to fly service chiefs across the country.
While reacting to the death last Friday of the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, in a plane crash in Kaduna State, Babangida said his course mate who was a NAF officer but now works in an international airline, flew into Kaduna State and landed safely at the airport about the same time the tragedy happened.
Babangida, in an interview on AIT Online, noted that his course mate had been flying for over 20 years and the experience he had gathered from the field could not be quantified with Flight Lieutenants who have less than five years of flying experience.
The former military intelligence officer said, “Training comes for every pilot but flying is a practical thing. The older you are in that field, the more seasoned you are. So, you don’t expect a pilot who has been flying for just six years to be as experienced as a pilot who has been flying for 20 years. I don’t think you will find any six-year-old pilot on the President’s fleet.
“Let us use our universities for an example. There are many roles which require seasoned professors and to which you cannot assign a graduate assistant. The same thing happens when it comes to flying. I can tell you quite confidently that another course mate of mine landed in Kaduna within the time that crash happened and he told us that the entire weather and atmosphere was red with dust.
“He works for an international airline and told us that he needed the experience in the profession to land. The moment he landed, he knew there would be no taking off for them until further notice. This colleague of mine, who is also an ex-NAF officer has been flying for more than 20 years. If you are 20 years in the NAF, if you are not a general, you should be sweating to become one.
“Why would Flight Lieutenants be flying a Lieutenant General? All of them went to flying school; no doubt about that; but from flying school onwards, the older you are on the job, the more experienced you are. It is not just something you just allow anybody to go and do. It requires a lot of experience. Flight Lieutenants are still baby pilots. For Flight Lieutenants to fly a Lieutenant General? Come on.”