Air Force Plane Crash: Course mates, others praise ‘courageous’ pilot

Coursemates of the two pilots who flew the Nigerian Air Force’s (NAF) B350i aircraft that crashed in Abuja on Sunday are mourning.

The pilots, Flight Lieutenants Ciroma Haruna Gadzama from Borno State and Piyo Henry Piyo from Plateau State were among seven NAF personnel who died in the crash.

According to members of the 62 Regular Course (RC), Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), who spoke to The Nation on Sunday, the two officers were dutiful and committed.

“Gadzy and Hyper T are gentlemen,” one of the officers prayed for the repose of their souls.

Another officer described them as amicable and thorough gentlemen, adding that they completed their flying school at Ilorin, Kwara State.

“They are friendly and even this morning I chatted with Gadzama. They will be remembered for their selfless service, discipline and dedication to the job.

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“Both were very optimistic and found joy in doing what they were doing. We have lost great pilots that were always willing, able and ready to serve,” he said.

Similarly, a member of their crew who was initially feared killed took to her social media status to reassure her loved ones that she was not onboard the flight.

Screenshot of her status update, which was shared online read: “I can’t pick any call right now, but I am alive. Thank you all for the calls and care. I am more scared for my life than anybody right now.

“All the seven persons that died are not strangers to me.

“I fly with the two captains often and the engineer ACMJohnson, is my very close godson and he’s actually in my group. He posted my picture yesterday on his status and we (were) laughing about it.

“This is an aircraft we all worked on last week. The Air Force lost seven vibrant souls today again and this time from my own household, my own home, my own happy place. The only difference is that I was not on flight today.

Maybe I would have been the one (dead). My heart is heavy.”

Nigerians took to the social media to celebrate the bravery of the pilots who witnesses said, spared the country major calamity by diverting the plane from crashing into residential neighbourhood.

Video footages shared online showed locals narrating, how the pilot avoided landing in residential neighbourhood and maneuvered the plane towards to bush.

This account shared by multiple witnesses endeared the pilots to the hearts of Nigerians, who described them as heroes.

One Benkingsley Nwashara said: “This is the pilot. He made sure he avoided the plane crashing into residential area. Even at the point of death, he chose to protect Nigerians. Rest on Gadzama, Rest on Hero. Rest in Peace General.”

Dimobika Chidoluo wrote: “Heartbreaking to learn of the crash near Abuja Airport. Our family friend and hero Haruna Gadzama was the lead pilot, who once again has shown his selfless personality by avoiding a crash into a major town. Rest in Peace brother, you will be missed.”

Members of the Ex Junior Pilot Association took to the social media to mourn Gadzama, describing him as a jovial and hardworking officer.

“We are saddened by the tragic death of Flt Lt CH Gadzama of 07 set of Air Force Secondary School Kaduna on the Sunday 21th of Febuary 2021.He was a Jovial and hardworking Officer of the Nigerian Airforce.

“Our condolence in the loss of our member. Many of us knew him personally and his personal traits was well loved. He will be missed.

  “On behalf of the Ex Junior Pilot Association we extend our deepest sympathies to The NAF and his family during this period of mourning. May his Gentle soul rest in peace. Nation

Pix: The Gazama in blue, while Piyo, the co pilot in white