Attahiru: NAF defends young officers who flew crashed plane

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) says the qualifications of its pilots should not be called into question.

A Beechcraft 350 belonging to NAF had crashed around the Kaduna international airport last Friday, killing Ibrahim Attahiru, late chief of army staff, and 10 other military officers who were on board the plane.

The air crash was the third crash over the past three months, involving a military aircraft.

Though the defence headquarters had said the air crash was caused by bad weather, some Nigerians had questioned the experience of the pilots and had called for a proper investigation into the incident.

But speaking on the incident, Edward Gabkwet, NAF director of public relations and information, said the qualification and experience of Taiwo Asaniyi, the flight captain, should not be questioned.

He said the late flight captain had been flying since he was a cadet at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and had flown more hours than some senior officers.

“On people saying a senior ranking officer should have flown the Chief of Army Staff and others, people don’t know him,” he said.

“He and the pilot flying the President are both Flight Lieutenants. He flew more hours than some of us. He had been flying since his time at the Nigerian Defence Academy. He started flying as a cadet.

“As a captain on the Beechcraft, he had flown 2,450 hours, which was in 2019. So he would have flown nothing less than 5,000 hours since his cadet days. He had been flying the COAS and other VVIPs on that same Beechcraft. He was 29 years old. Because he had an accident doesn’t mean he didn’t have experience.

“He travelled every year for retraining. Our training involves a partnership with the manufacturers of the planes. It is rigorous; it’s not something taken with levity.”

The NAF spokesperson also dismissed rumours that NAF was using old aircraft, saying that the Beechcraft that crashed on Friday was among those that were newly bought in 2015.

“We have four Beechcraft aircraft. The Beechcraft aircraft which crashed last Friday was among those newly bought in 2015. They are easy to maintain and they are widely used even in the United States and Britain, ” he said.

“The one that crashed in January was given to us by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency. So, the accident wasn’t about the aircraft. Everyone is saying the weather that day was bad. Even in Abuja, it was bad.”


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