As the nation mourns the death of her first Combat Pilot. There has been some few misrepresentation of the facts by some media houses. While many are reporting the news of the departed to be Nigeria’s first female pilot. Others have had to take the pains of correcting the error on social media.
Forinstance, controversial blogger, Kemi Oluloyo tweeted, “Tolu Arotile is not actually the FIRST Nigerian helicopter pilot. She’s the first combat pilot. Every media got it WRONG. I got my license 2003 to fly airborne on traffic news assignments with late Capt Herb Emory. I don’t know the first but it’s SAD TO HEAR THAT SHE DIED if true”.
National Daily will like to keep the record straight that the actual woman to first fly an aircraft is still very much alive. Chinyere Kalu is the first Nigerian female commercial pilot and first woman to fly an aircraft in Nigeria. She served as the rector and chief instructor of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology between October 2011 and February 2014.
According to wikipedia, she is a native of Ukwa East in Abia State, Eastern Nigeria, Kalu grew up under the care of her mother after the separation of her parents. She grew up in a very supportive big family. She decided to begin her career in aviation because of her adventurous aunt, well known for overseas travelling.
She had her primary school education at Anglican Girls Grammar School, Yaba, Lagos State, before she trained as a private and commercial pilot in 1978 at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria under SP.12 Batch.
She subsequently took several aviation and transport courses in the United Kingdom and the United States before she received her license as a commercial pilot on 20 May 1981, from the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology.
In October 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed her the rector and chief instructor of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology. In February 2014, she was succeeded by Captain Samuel Caulcrick.
She is a member of the Nigerian Women Achievers Hall of Fame and also a member of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which was conferred upon her in 2006.
Other awards on her include the African International Achievers Merit Award 2007; the Rare Gems Professional Achievements Award 2007; and Nigeria’s 50 Greatest Women of Democratic Administration of Ghana 2012.
In a series of tweets Air Mashal Abubakar, the Nigerian Chief Of Air Staff, had lofty memories about the lateTolu:
“I was heart broken when I received the sad news of the death of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile yesterday in Kaduna. Tolulope, who was winged in October 2019, as the first female @NigAirForce combat helicopter pilot, was one of our shining young stars.
“She was a very intelligent, disciplined, confident & courageous young officer who added value wherever she served. As a squadron pilot in Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State, she flew her quota of anti-banditry combat missions to ensure a safer, more secured Nigeria.
“I recall meeting her at the Minna Airport, while on operational visit, after one of such missions & seeing her eagerness to contribute towards the restoration of lasting peace to the affected areas. Her death is a huge loss to @NigAirForce family & indeed the entire Nation.
“On behalf officers, airmen, airwomen & civilian staff of @NigAirForce, I once more condole with the family of late Flying Officer Arotile over this irreparable loss & sincerely pray that the Almighty God grants her soul eternal rest”.