Update On AirForce Jet Crash In Abuja: Tension In Headquarters

The Nigerian Air Force’s aerial display rehearsals for the October 1 Independence Day celebrations turned tragic on Friday when two F-7Ni fighter jets collided midair, resulting in a crash on Katamkpe Hill along the Kubwa Expressway, Abuja.

The disaster led to the death of one pilot, while two others who escaped with injuries were hospitalised.

There's tension as senior officers are being asked tough questions.

The Chief of Air of Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, immediately ordered an investigation into the air crash, a statement by NAF confirmed.

It was learnt that the deceased officer, Squadron Leader Bello Baba-Ari, who was a trainer pilot flew the combat fighter jet while the hospitalised officers flew the trainer jets.

It was gathered that the 32-year-old pilot, a squadron pilot at the Air Task Force, Operation Lafiya Dole, in the North-East, had taken off with two others in three fighter jets at about 12.30pm from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

The planes collided minutes later around Katamkpe Hill.

It was learnt that the air tragedy necessitated the pilots to eject from their aircraft, which subsequently crashed on the hill, but Baba-Ari died due to complications from injuries sustained upon his impact on the ground.

A competent source at the NAF headquarters, Abuja, explained how the incident happened, noting that the two surviving pilots were receiving medical attention in a NAF medical facility.

He said, “The speed of a fighter jet is usually very fast such that immediately you take off as a pilot, you have to begin to negotiate how you will land. When he took off, he slowed down in the air so that the two others could catch up with him. But somehow, they ran ahead of him and one of them then collided with his.

“The two other pilots used parachutes to negotiate their way out of the jet but he, as a senior pilot, wanted to sort out the jet and bring it to safety. There was also a problem with his parachute. So he crashed on the ground with the jet.”

An eyewitness, who gave his name only as Miracle, attributed the death of the NAF officer to the failed deployment of his parachute.

He explained that he saw the jet crashing down and the air officer struggling as his aircraft hit the ground and burst into flames.

He said, “I watched the jets coming down and the pilots struggling to eject from the aircraft. Two officers successfully ejected from a jet, but the third one was not so lucky because the parachute did not open (deploy), so he landed on the ground and died.

“The other two narrowly escaped being roasted in the flame that engulfed their crashed aircraft, their escape and survival was nothing short of a miracle.”