The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Siddique Abubakar, on Wednesday paid tribute to late Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, who died in Kaduna on Tuesday in a road traffic accident.
Abubakar in a statement described Arotile as a disciplined, intelligent and courageous officer whose loss is irreparable for the force.
The CAS submitted that the late 23-year-old officer was a shining star.
“I was heartbroken when I received the sad news of the death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile yesterday in Kaduna,” his tweet read.
“Tolulope, who was winged in October 2019, as the first female NAF combat helicopter pilot, was one of our shining young stars,” he added.
According to the CAS, Arotile added value where she served as Squadron Pilot in Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State, adding that she was eager to contribute to the fight against banditry and terrorism in the country.
“I recall meeting her at the Minna Airport, while on operational visit, after one of such missions & seeing her eagerness to contribute towards the restoration of lasting peace to the affected areas. Her death is a huge loss to NAF family and indeed the entire nation,” he said.
Arotile, who was commissioned into the NAF in September 2017 as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), died eight months after she was commissioned as Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot.
The late young officer hailed from Kogi State.
Born on 13 December 1995 to the family of Mr and Mrs Akintunde Arotile in Kaduna, Arotile, hails from Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State. She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 to 20055 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 to 20111 before she later gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna as a member of 64 Regular Course on 22 September 2012.
She 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.
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.
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.
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. Before her untimely death, Arotile made significant and outstanding contributions to the war against terrorism, armed banditry and other forms of criminality in the Country, flying several combat missions.
Arotile said she joined the Nigerian Air Force out of a passion for the job. In her words “I joined the military simply out of passion for it. Being military personnel has been a long time ambition, the carriage and what it stands for are simply exceptional.