Winged and Ready: Meet Kafayat Sanni, Nigeria’s first female fighter pilot
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Tuesday in Abuja winged its first female fighter pilot, first female helicopter pilot and first female Air Warrant Officer.
The first female fighter (combatant) pilot winged is Flying Officer Kafayat Sanni and first female helicopter pilot, Tolulope Arotile.
They were the two female pilots among the 13 that were winged.
Sanni graduated from the NAF training school in Kaduna in 2017 as best among the rest and was among the 63 international students from 23 countries who went through pilot training at Columbus AFB in the United States where she also distinguished herself. First Lt. Sanni Kafayat, completed pilot training in US July 25.
In the US, Kafayat had been flying the T-6 Texan II and wants to fly fighter aircraft when she returns to Nigeria. She is one of five women pilots in Nigeria, and the only fighter pilot among them.
She recalls: “Nigeria only has a few selected students who come to the U.S. each year. I was extremely excited when I heard that I was chosen. This is a very rare opportunity that I did not want to miss.”
The two female pilots had successfully completed their pilot training courses in United States of America and South Africa.
The newly promoted first female Air Warrant Officer, Grace Garba was also decorated with her new rank.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the 13 pilots qualified for the award of the NAF prestigious Wing.
“Today indeed marks another milestone in the history of the NAF and I am gratified to be part of it.
“I am particularly happy because out of the 13 pilots to be winged are two female Regular Combatant officers.
“They are not only female officers but outstanding aviators.
“While one of the two pilots is the first female fighter pilot in the 55 years history of the NAF, the second one is the first female combat helicopter pilot.
“The first female fighter pilot trained at the United States Air Force following an excellent performance during her initial flying training course at 401 Flying Training School in Kaduna.
“While the second graduated from Starlite International Training Academy. They both performed excellently well during their training.
“Our records indicate that as at today, we have trained a total of 67 Instructor pilots since 2015.
“Furthermore, with the winging of these pilots today, the NAF would have winged a total of 101 pilots within the same period.
“Currently, we have 61 pilots undergoing basic flying training, while 50 are undergoing various forms of advanced flying training courses both locally and abroad.
“As such we are highly delighted to see the rewards of our collective efforts.
“I am confident that the NAF and indeed Nigeria will soon be reaping the benefits that these pilots would undoubtedly add to our operations,’’ he said.
Dame Pauline Tallen, the minister of Women Affairs, who graced the occasion, expressed happiness to be part of the event.
Tallen congratulated the female pilots, and the Air Warrant Officer for the feat, saying that history had been made.
Speaking to newsmen, Flying officer Sanni, said she would play her part in the ongoing counter insurgency operations in the North East.