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Tolulope Arotile: How Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot died

The Nigerian Air Force has suffered a huge loss as its first female combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, passed on.

She died in an auto crash on Tuesday. Tolu was killed by a reversing car inside the Air Force base in Kaduna State.

According to reports, the car was driven by her old schoolmate who was trying to reverse the car and say hello to Tolulope.

The late pilot was winged in 2019 by Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Saddique Abubakar in Abuja.

Air Force Director of Public Relations and Information Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, in a statement in Abuja, said:

“Flying Officer Arotile died on 14 July 2020 at the age of 24, when she was inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force Secondary School classmate while trying to greet her.”

Flying Officer Arotile joined the Nigerian Air Force out of a passion for the job. In her words

“I joined the military simply out of a passion for it. Being military personnel has been a long time ambition, the carriage and what it stands for are simply exceptional.”

Born on 13 December 1995 to the family of Mr and Mrs Akintunde Arotile in Kaduna, Flying Officer Tolulope Oluwatoyin Sarah Arotile hails from Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State.

She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 – 2005 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 – 2011 before she later gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna as a member of 64 Regular Course on 22 September 2012.Tolulope Arotile: How Nigeria's first female combat helicopter pilot died

“Flying Officer Arotile was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on 16 September 2017 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy.

“Flying Officer Arotile was winged as the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force on 15 October 2019, after completing her flying training in South Africa.

“She holds a commercial pilot license and also underwent tactical flying training on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy,” he continued.

“Incidentally, she introduced the newly acquired Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at Eagle Square in Abuja on 6 February 2020.

“The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the Service, consoles with the family of late Flying Officer Arotile over this irreparable loss. May her gentle soul continue to Rest in Peace.”

Tolulope Arotile: How Nigeria's first female combat helicopter pilot died

Also, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said the brief life of the late Arotile impacted on the nation immensely.

“President Muhammadu Buhari received with deep pain the passing of Flying Officer, Tolulope Arotile, condoling with the family on the loss of such a promising officer, whose short stay on earth impacted greatly on the nation, especially in peace and security.

“The President salutes Arotile’s bravery in the field to protect the country from the onslaught of bandits and terrorists, assuring that her memory will be indelible, and her efforts remembered.

“President Buhari commiserates with the Nigerian Air Force, airmen, airwomen and all friends of the deceased, recalling her deft skills in maneuvering combat helicopters, which he had physically witnessed with pride.

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