The Nigerian Air Force will formally open its civil and military helicopter training school in Enugu next month.
In January 2010 it was announced that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had approved the establishment of the helicopter school in Enugu. At the time Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar, said that NCAA approval would assist the school to train both officers and civilians, including pilots and maintenance technicians. He added that the Nigerian Air Force was not alone in the project, as it was partnering with firms in the United States and Nigeria.
Umar, on a recent courtesy visit to Governor Sullivan Chime in Enugu, said the flight school would commence operation in July. “You will recall that sometime in 2010, we were here in Enugu when the Nigeria Air Force brought the idea of establishing an international helicopter flying school,” Umar was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria as saying. “Since then, we have put plans in motion to realise that dream. I am very delighted to inform you that the dream is gradually coming to pass. We hope and pray that the school will take off on July 23, 2012.”
“I am happy that the air force is re-establishing itself here in Enugu. We will do everything possible to keep you here in Enugu,” said Chime.
Nigerian Air Force helicopter pilots complete primary training at 301 Flying Training School in Kaduna before moving to 305 Flying Training School in Enugu. Before the establishment of 305 Flying Training School, helicopter pilots were sent overseas for training, but even recently training has taken place in the United States. In 1986 the NAF acquired Hughes 300C helicopters for 305 FTS, but they were withdrawn and replaced by Mi-34s, which were in turn withdrawn and replaced by AW109s. The Mi-34s, acquired in September 2000 for training, are being sold due to gearbox problems.
A dozen AgustaWestland AW109E/LUHs were recently ordered for the Air Force and these began arriving in February 2010. The first two were inducted into service with 305 Flying Training School in Enugu. It is believed that these will be used by the civil and military helicopter training school.
The Nigerian Air Force has a large helicopter force used for attack, transport, assault support, SAR and medical duties. In the attack role the NAF has two Mil Mi-24Vs, two Mi-24Ps and five Mi-35 Hinds. The latter were delivered in September 2000.
Transport and utility helicopters include two AgustaWestland AW139s, four Mi-171s, five Aerospatiale SA 330 Pumas (out of 15 originally) and six Super Pumas.