Air crash: NAF recants, says pilot survives after hitting bandits’ base

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Monday confirmed media reports that its Alpha Jet aircraft returning from an air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna state was gunned down by bandits.

A statement by Director Public Relations and Information Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet said the pilot of the aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, successfully ejected from the aircraft.

Explaining how the pilot escaped, Gabkwet said: “Using his survival instincts, the pilot, who came under intense ground fire from the bandits, was able to evade them and sought refuge in nearby settlements awaiting sunset.

“Using the cover of darkness and his phone set for navigation, Flight Lieutenant Dairo was able to elude several bandits’ strongholds and maneuvered his way to a Nigerian Army Unit, where he was finally rescued.”

He said upon receipt of the news of the crash, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, directed that all efforts must be emplaced to rescue the pilot.

He said, “Accordingly, NAF Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms and helicopter gunships provided close air support to NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops who were able to locate the crash site and the pilot’s parachute, while also combing nearby locations for any sign of the pilot.

“It is gladdening to note that while in hiding, Flight Lieutenant Dairo confirmed that the presence of NAF aircraft within the vicinity of the crash site helped in scaring the bandits who were after him, thus enabling him to find refuge and escape to a safe location.”

The NAF had denied media reports that its plane crash in Kaduna Sunday.

Gabwet while denying the report, said, “No crash in Kaduna. No aircraft left Yola for Kaduna… I am making contact and awaiting information from other locations. Thanks.”

The military has recorded a number of crashes in 2021.

In May, a NAF aircraft crashed at Kaduna airport, a serving Chief of Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other officers.

Also, in March another Alpha jet crashed in Borno during an operation with 2 pilots onboard.

On February 21, a Minna-bound military jet on surveillance mission crashed near Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja killing all 7 people on board.