Course mates of the two pilots who flew the Nigerian Air Force’s (NAF) B350i aircraft that crashed in Abuja have mourning their demise.
The pilots, Flight Lieutenants Ciroma Haruna Gadzama (Borno State) and Piyo Henry Piyo (Plateau), were among seven NAF personnel who died after the Minna-bound jet developed engine problem and made a detour to Abuja where it crashed.
Members of the 62 Regular Course(RC), Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) who spoke to newsmen described the two officers as dutiful and committed.
“We all have negatives but Gadzy and Hyper T are gentlemen that their positives surpass their negatives,” one of the officers said as he prayed for the repose of their souls.
Another officer described the deceased as amicable and thorough gentlemen, adding they completed their flying school at Ilorin, Kwara State.
“Honestly, they are 100 per cent friendly and even this morning I chatted with Gadzama. They will be remembered for their selfless service, discipline and dedication to the job.
“Both were very optimistic of this job, they find joy in doing what they are doing. We have lost great pilots that are always willing, able and ready to serve,” said the officer.
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 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 ACM Johnson 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.”
Meanwhile, Nigerians have taken to 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 in Hausa language how the pilot avoided landing in residential neighbourhood and maneuvered the plane towards the bush.
This account shared by multiple witnesses endeared the pilots to Nigerians who described them as heroes.
One Benkingsley Nwashara said: ‘‘This is the pilot. He made sure to avoid 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.”