For a pilot to be selected to participate in an air show on the celebration of his country’s independence anniversary must have been a dream come true, but for Squadron Leader Mohammed Bello Baba-Ari, that dream will never see the light of day.
It was barely 26 days after his 32nd birthday , that Squadron Leader Mohammed Bello Baba-Ari, one of the most prolific fighter pilots in NAF and his fellow Nigerian Air Force (NAF) pilots took to the skies to rehearse their air display in preparation for the air parade that was to be displayed on Monday, October 1, 2018 during the celebration of Nigeria’s 58th independence anniversary.
When the young Air Force pilots took to the sky that fateful day, there was no clue that something would go wrong. But everything went wrong.
The aircraft rehearsal included other jets and a larger one in the middle and part of the routine was for the set of jets to divide themselves into two groups on each side of the larger aircraft, and they would bank away in opposite direction.
When Baba Ari 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 in the process brushed each other and began to tumble.
Meanwhile,prior to the rehearsal, the Air Force authorities had alerted residents within the vicinity of the base not to panic when they see aircraft flying low. So when the jet began to go lower, people’s initial reaction was to dismiss it as practice. That reaction changed for the worse when two of the aircraft collided.
As a well-trained fighter-pilots who have wide experiences in counter-insurgency operations and other air drills,late Baba-Ari had successfully manipulated his jet away from crashing on a civilian populated area to avoid human casualty before attempting to eject from the aircraft. However, while the duo of Squadron Leader Batuba and Flight Lieutenant Andy, successfully ejected from the aircraft using parachutes, he, as a senior pilot, wanted to sort out the jet and bring it to safety apparently,but Baba-Ari’s aircraft’s ejection mechanism failed, and as the fighter jet crash-landed on the rocks of Katampe, Abuja, he died on the spot, while the two of his colleagues got injured.
Squadron Leader Bello Baba-Ari burial proceedings
The late Chief Of Staff,Abba Kyari consoling the father of the late Baba-Ari during the burial in Abuja.
As a mark of honour for the supreme price, the Nigerian Air Force, named a Pilots’ crew room at the Headquarters Air Task ,Operation LAFIYA DOLE in Maiduguri after the late senior officer. A building of six 3-bedroom flats for officers, located at NAF Base Asokoro, Abuja was also named after him.
To borrow the words of Napoleon, what makes one a martyr is not the death but the cause. If the jet had crashed in Mpape, one of Abuja most densely populated community; lots of lives would have been lost.
Mohammed Bello Baba-Ari, your deeds are worth celebrating. May your gentle soul rest in perfect peace.
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