Happy Women’s Day to all our fellow women around the world!
Women’s Day in South Africa is celebrated on August 9. This Day commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition the country’s pass laws.
Therefore, today is the ideal opportunity to highlight the achievements of phenomenal South African Women, especially in the aviation industry where only 5% of airline pilots and 3% of Airline CEO’s are female. So of course, today we’re showing off a handful of our inspiring women in a range of aviation professions.
So, what else can be done to encourage more females into this industry? Career days, job shadowing and more platforms with women sharing their experiences are a great starting point. Including more females in flight school advertisements as well as on their websites and social media is another way to show gender diversity to aspiring students. Finally, promoting the idea that one’s gender doesn’t matter to succeed in aviation is essential – with passion, anything is possible. So, let’s dive straight in…
A 21-year-old current 43 student busy with her iATPL course. Angela’s career goal is to fly for a South Africa Domestic Carrier.
Angela knew that she wanted to work with aircraft from a young age. A career in aircraft maintenance was her original dream, but Angela was bitten by the flying bug during her introduction flight at 43 Air School – she immediately shifted her focus to becoming a pilot.
Question 1: How did your school peers react to your dream of becoming a pilot?
I had mixed reactions… some doubted my ability – they didn’t believe females were capable of being as competent pilots as men. In fact, they were shocked to hear that there are plenty of female pilots who fly for domestic airlines. Luckily, my closest friends were supportive, excited for me and didn’t doubt me for a second. Those are the friends worth keeping.
Question 2: What is the best part of your pilot training journey?
The practical flying part of the course, without a doubt! Learning how to fly, hearing students mistakenly say funny things on frequency (myself included) and everything in between. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Question 3: What is the most challenging part of your flight training journey?
It’s how hard I can be on myself since I’m a perfectionist. I try to do to everything to the best of my ability – all procedures, radio work and every landing. When you improve with each flight, you always want to do even better on the next one.
Question 4: With what type of flying job are you considering launching your career?
I plan to do an instructors rating to gain more experience and to challenge myself. Then, I’d love to experience bush and charter flying before ultimately reaching the airlines.
Question 5: Do you have any advice for others aspiring to be in your position?
Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do because it could turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.
A 26-year-old GRIII Flight Instructor at 43 Air School. Lebo’s career goals are to fly internationally for a prestigious airline and use her human factor degree to improve the aviation industry worldwide.
Lebogang decided to pursue a career as a pilot to compliment her love for travelling. However, she first completed an Honours degree in Psychology at the University of Witswatersrand before enrolling in pilot training. Lebogang is currently a GRIII flight instructor at 43 Air School and holds a B737 Type Rating. If that isn’t enough, this remarkable young woman is busy with her master’s degree in Human Factors through a university in the UK while instructing student pilots.
Question 1: How has a psychology degree helped you in your career as a pilot?
I’d like to believe that my psychology background has helped me to have a better understanding of people. We are all individuals with different outlooks on life so, it’s important to remember this since I instruct as a school that caters to international students.
Question 2: What is your favourite thing about being a flight instructor?
It’s all about the early teaching journey – taking a student from zero knowledge to being able to fly by themselves is such a trip. I must admit that I get so excited when my students go on their first solo. You would swear it was my first solo too!
Question 3: After instructing, what type of flying job are you looking for?
I am the kind of person who loves structure and planning, so I believe going into an airline and working according to a monthly roster would be a perfect choice. I am not cut out for bush flying!
Question 4: How do you think women can help each other grow in this industry?
We need to look out for each other. It is already a male-dominated industry and it would be a shame to fight against that and other women. For example, when you hear of an opportunity and are in the position to suggest someone, bring forward the name of a deserving and hardworking woman.
A 34-year-old qualified Aircraft Mechanic and safety representative at 43 Air School. With over 17 000 qualified hours and 14 years experience in aircraft structures and maintenance.
Ranette used to get butterflies in her stomach as a child watching aircraft take-off and land at the local airport. As fate would have it, she found an opportunity to enter the aviation industry through a women’s empowerment program and never looked back! Ranette’s career began in the field of aircraft structures, but this ambitious woman didn’t stop there – she continued into aircraft maintenance and then progressed to the quality assurance and safety representative for the AMO.
Question 1: What sparked your interest in the technical side of aircraft?
I loved aircraft, but I didn’t know how to enter the industry or that I would be so passionate about the technical side of it. I believe that aircraft structures chose me – a family friend approached me about an initiative to empower women in the industry. I was immediately on board! I worked to the best of my ability during my apprentice and fell in love with trade instantly.
Question 2: Tell us about your structures apprentice.
I manufactured and assembled components at a company called Aerosud Aviation for the Airbus A319, A320 and A321. After five years I qualified as an aircraft structures technician. I was thrilled to achieve this but, I knew that I was capable of more. So, I decided to find a way to join the maintenance side of aircraft.
Question 3: How did you enter the maintenance side of aviation?
I studied further at 43 Air School and became a fully licensed aircraft structures maintenance engineer (B License) 7 years ago. When I received my license, I was 1 of only 5 in South Africa! So, I was promoted to crew chief of the structures department.
Question 4: What is your day-to-day job like?
I am licensed to work on and sign out aircraft structures of light aircraft and commercial aircraft. So, I repair, maintain and rebuild aircraft structures. This includes flight control surfaces.
Question 5: How do you think women can help each other grow in this industry?
Platforms like the Aviatrix West blog to make women aware that other women are excelling in this industry. This way, we can motivate and learn from each other. Each trade is different, but they are all needed for the same goal.
28-Year-Old, 43 Alumni, currently an ATR Flight Officer for Cargo Flights (and former SAA Cadet) Carmen’s career goal is for fly long-haul.
Carmen believes that succeeding in the aviation industry requires passion. Passion led her through the challenging years working as a Biomedical Technician to fund her pilot training, right through to flying the ATR in West Africa. In between, Carmen was fortunate to be selected as an SAA cadet pilot and completed her training at 43 Air School (where she instructed for 3 years).
Question1: What is it like being a cargo pilot in West Africa?
It’s a fun and forgiving environment. However;
– Cargo operations do present the challenge of mostly flying at night, which can be difficult for fatigue management.
– One of the bigger challenges we face in West Africa is the weather – it can get a little intense! (It’s ‘good exposure’ as they say).
Question 2: Describe life in West Africa and explain how you cope with being away from your family.
Living in West Africa has been an eye-opener. There is a big contrast between wealthy and poor, with little in between. It feels safe and friendly most of the time but generally, we avoid going out alone as an extra precaution. The crew houses are comfortable and the crew are mostly team players who generally form a kinship during the time spent together. Contract rotations are normally two months on, one month at home, which isn’t half as bad as it sounds – the time away from home is long but being off at home or free to travel for a full month makes up for it. In some ways, you end up spending more quality time with your loved ones than having a 9-5 job.
Question 3: What is it like flying during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Fortunately, cargo operations have continued throughout the pandemic. One could even say that we have more work. Sadly, this is not the case for many other airlines who have had drastic reductions – as we all know, many pilots around the world have already lost their jobs. Our job isn’t risk-free – we must be cautious while on duty. For example, we minimize contact with the many ground handling and airport personnel who we deal with daily.
Question 4: What advice do you have for others aspiring to be in your position?
Put your head down and work for what you want, it will eventually fall into place if you work hard enough and stay patient.
A GRIII Flight Instructor and Safety Officer at 43 Air School. Meagan’s career goal is to be an Airline Training Captain.
On Meagan’s first flight as her father’s passenger, she immediately knew that she wanted to become a pilot. So, she moved to Port Alfred and quickly became a 43 Air School cadet. This is where the magic happened! Meagan didn’t only learn how to fly during her cadetship – she completed an AFIS course and gained exposure working in the control tower before tackling the SMS and quality auditor courses. Now Meagan works as a flight instructor while balancing a busy schedule as 43 Air School’s safety and AFIS manager.
Question 1: What is an AFIS course?
An Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS) job is a position that comes with great responsibility but, with great rewards too. Students enrolled in this course earn an Air Traffic License. The primary purpose of an AFIS is to separate aircraft to prevent collisions, to organize and expedite the flow of traffic, and to provide information and other support for pilots.
Question 2: What does your job as safety manager involve?
I ensure the safety of all staff and students in the air and on the ground. This is no easy task – I continuously strive to improve safety systems and make a point of educating all staff and students. Fortunately, I have learnt so much about the aviation safety industry through this step in my career. I’ll always appreciate being able to help people by making a safer environment and I can see myself doing more of this in the future.
Question 3: How do you think women can grow together in this industry?
Mentorship! By mentoring and learning from other women in aviation we can grow and help each other to the top.
Question 4: What advice do you have for others aspiring to be in your position?
Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Your only limit is the one you set for yourself.
ABOUT GUEST WRITER:
28-year-old influencer, blogger, female pilot and a former flight attendant with a love for aviation. Well-known as Aviatrix West, originally from Canada but grew up in South Africa. After working as a flight attendant in the Middle East, Aviatrix moved to Belgium to pursue a career as a pilot – after completing her Airbus A320 skills test. Aviatrix also holds a degree in Architecture
My aim is to help others realize their dreams in aviation by providing guidance to both flight attendants and pilots. I’d especially like women to see how exciting and accessible a career as a pilot is.
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