Missing Man: Special Tribute By Kenya Air Force Honouring CDF Gen Francis Ogolla

For Ogolla's case, however, the Kenya Air Force conducted a special aerial tribute honouring his service and sacrifice.

Missing Man: Special Tribute By Kenya Air Force Honouring CDF Gen Francis Ogolla
Side by side image of a Kenya Air Force pilot and the late Chief Of Defence Forces Francis Ogolla. /KDF

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) on Saturday, April 20 honoured the late Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Francis Ogolla with a poignant memorial service at the Ulinzi Sports Complex in Lang'ata, Nairobi that followed strict military protocol.

Ogolla, distinguished as a four-star general, was accorded the ceremonial honour of a 19-gun salute, a customary tribute reserved for dignitaries such as vice presidents, speakers of the Senate and National Assembly, chief justices, state governors, chiefs of staff, and similarly ranked military leaders in the United States.

Former presidents also receive such an honour, as witnessed during the state funerals of Presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki on February 12, 2020, and April 30, 2022, respectively.

For Ogolla's case, however, the Kenya Air Force conducted a special aerial tribute honouring his service and sacrifice. This is known as the Missing Man formation.

Illustration of the Missing Man formation. /WIKIPEDIA

How Missing Man Formation Works?

The missing man formation is a solemn aerial salute performed during flyovers at funerals or memorial events. It's a symbolic way to honour a fallen pilot, military service member, or sometimes even a respected civilian.

Here's how it works:

  • Formation: Typically, aircraft fly in a V-shaped formation with two pairs of planes.
  • The Missing Man: One plane is missing from its usual position in the formation. This empty space represents the individual being honoured who is no longer there with their comrades.
  • Variations: There can be slight variations in the formation depending on the number of aircraft involved.

This missing man salute is a powerful visual reminder of the person's absence and the sacrifice they made.

Though similar formations have occurred as early as World War I, the first flypast in the modern formation of four planes is believed to have occurred in 1931 at the funeral for Charles W. "Speed" Holman, who was an American stunt pilot, barnstormer, wing walker, parachutist, airmail pilot, record-holding aviator, and airline pilot.

Other Uses

Missing man formations are also used in motorsport in memory of a recently deceased driver and in American football in memory of a recently deceased player.

General Ogolla At The Air Force

The late General Francis Ogolla joined the military on April 24, 1984, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on May 6, 1985. He attended the ÉcoleMilitaire de Paris, the same military training College as Napoleon Bonaparte a famous French Emperor, military commander and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution.

Napoleon Bonaparte was trained in the academy in 1784 an academy for trainee officers from noble families without strong financial backgrounds.

Ogolla equally held a Diploma both in International Studies and Military Science from Egerton University, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Armed Conflict and Peace Studies (First Class Honors) and a Master of Arts in International Studies from the University of Nairobi.

He was posted to the Kenya Air Force where he began his military career as a fighter pilot as well as trained as an instructor pilot with United States Airforce (USAF). Ogolla also received training in other areas, such as imagery intelligence, counter-terrorism, and accident investigation.

His dedication to continuous learning and professional development has been a hallmark of his distinguished career. In 2018, he was appointed the Commander of the Kenya Air Force for three years before rising to the rank of Vice Chief of Defence Forces.

CDF Role

Before he died in a helicopter crash on Thursday, April 18, General Ogolla served in the CDF role which saw him outrank all respective heads of each service branch and have operational command authority over the service branches.

He led the meetings and coordinated the efforts of the Service Commander, comprising the CDF, the Commander of the Kenya Army and Kenya Air Force, Kenya Navy and the Commandant of Military Intelligence and was also accustomed to his offices in Ulinzi House within the Department of Defense headquarters in Nairobi.

He also held other ranks including Training, Command and Staff including Deputy Commander at Kenya Air Force, Base Commander at Laikipia Air Base, Commanding Officer of Tactical Fighter Wing, Chief Flying Instructor at Kenya Air Force Flying Training School and Operations Desk Officer at Kenya Air Force Headquarters.

KDF soldiers escort CDF Francis Ogolla's casket at the Ulinzi Sports Complex during the late general's memorial service on April 20, 2024. /KBC DIGITAL