By Deji Elumoye
The Senate Thursday observed one minute silence in honour of the late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, the first female combat helicopter pilot of the Nigerian Air Force.
It also condoled with the Arotile family, the Nigerian Air Force, Governor Yahaya Bello and the people of Kogi State.
This was sequel to a point of order raised on the floor of the Senate by Senator Smart Adeyemi, over the death of the pilot.
Adeyemi noted with grief the death of Arotile who died on Tuesday, 14th July, 2020 in a freak accident at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Kaduna at the age of 24.
According to him, the late Flying Officer was winged as Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot at the Nigerian Air Force headquarters, Abuja on 15 October 2019, after completing her flying training in South Africa.
Adeyemi noted that “Flying Officer Arotile who was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on 16 September 2017, holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy.
“Arotile underwent tactical flying training on the Augusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy, and holds a commercial pilots’ licence.
“On 6 February 2020, she introduced the Air Force’s newly-acquired Augusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
“She served the nation as a Squadron Pilot at the 405 Helicopter Combat Training Group, Enugu, attached to the Air Component of Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State.
“She had recently completed her Promotion Examination and was awaiting her next deployment.
“As a participant in the GAMA AIKI in Niger State, she flew her quota of anti-banditry combat missions to ensure a safer and more secured Nigeria.
“Before her untimely death, she made significant and outstanding contributions to the war against terrorism, armed banditry and other forms of criminality in the country;
“Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile in her own words said, ”I joined the military simply out of passion for it. Being a military personnel has been a long time ambition, the carriage and what it stands for are simply exceptional”
“Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile possessed deft skills as a combat helicopter pilot and truly earned the accolades from the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar.
“Abubakar described her as “ a very intelligent, disciplined, confident and courageous young officer who added value wherever she served”; “The late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, was a shining young star in the Nigeria’s Air Force combat flying missions and her sad demise has reduced the ranks the Air Force’s female pilots to six, thus she deserves to be memorialized in the Nigeria’s history.”