Young, black pilots reach for the stars
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Transformation in South
Africa’s aviation industry
remains painfully slow owing to
a myriad challenges that block newly
qualified young black pilots from seeing
their dream careers take off. A group of young pilots determined
to break these barriers have
come together to not only help each
other overcome the obstacles, but also
to encourage black children to take up
flying as a career.
The head of the South African
Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA ),
Poppy Khoza, admits that the aviation
industry’s lack of transformation is
a serious concern, especially with
regard to gender inequality, financial
assistance and racism.
“The industry is seemingly reluctant
or simply unable to fully embrace
the transformation agenda. But the
SACAA will continue to promote
initiatives to fast-track the assimilation
of previously marginalised
citizens into the aviation industry,”
INSPIRING: Lesang Tshoke informs a school child about his job. Picture: Supplied.
“An analysis of South Africa’s statistics
relating to licensed aviation
personnel demonstrates a serious lack
of transformation throughout technical
aviation fields, especially those
of piloting and engineering. The representation
in the technical
licences category is a
mere 17% out of more
than 38 000 licence
“The reality is
that the majority of
female licence holders
are cabin-crew members. The same
applies to citizens of African descent,”
Young black pilots Olorato Major
and Samuel Tshikovhi are among the
few who are determined to reach for
the sky, no matter the cost.
Major, 21, was born in Warrenton
in the Northern Cape, and thanks to
her mom, who worked hard to get her
and her older brother out of Warrenton,
she was able to dream big.
As a student completing her private
pilot licence at Loutzavia Flight
School in Wonderboom, near Pretoria,
she said the challenges stemmed from
racism, inequality and a shortage of
“I have had to deal with racism
and inequality in the learning space,
which ended up hurting my confidence
and at some point held me back
from doing my best, because of the
stress and animosity,” said Major.
READY: Olorato Major
Tshikovhi, 24, who is from Thohoyandou
in Limpopo, was raised
by a single parent who would move
mountains to make ends meet.
Tshikovhi said the long study
hours and the financial implications
were among the struggles that young
black pilots faced.
“I wanted to be a commercial pilot
more than a military pilot, but I was
prepared to take any opportunity that
presented itself first. I contacted several
institutions, including the military,
and was invited to go and view
their facilities. The rest is history,”
According to Tshikovhi, there’s a
lot of studying that goes into the field
and it’s not once-off, but involves a
lifetime of constant studying.
“The 75% pass mark really does
demand time in front of the desk,
while the flying in itself can be a
challenge. No two flights are the same,
even though the destinations might be
the same. We are always at the mercy
of the weather.
“Lastly, the financial implications
can be the greatest obstacle for learners
who want to follow this career
path, and forces most to quit along the
way,” Tshikovhi pointed out.
TEACH THEM YOUNG: Boitumelo Katisi talks to a pupil about aviation. Picture: Supplied.
Both Major and Tshikovhi said
there had been a bigger demand for
pilots in the world, although the
industry was still dominated by white
As young black pilots, Major and
Tshikovhi joined Aviation Development
in Africa (ADA), an initiative
consisting of young aviators who
came together and saw the need to
help aspiring pilots and student pilots
struggling financially to complete
their courses in the aviation sector.
Major is the general secretary and
Tshikovhi the admin manager for
“We’ve all become
better people and
pilots by helping
others. We want to
succeed and grow to
be recognised in the
aviation sector, while
breaking the barriers
to help the African child thrive in the
industry as much as any other child,
irrespective of race, gender and social
background,” said Major.
PAY IT FORWARD: The pilots in training spread their knowledge to youngsters. Picture: Supplied.
“We want to help them take the
initiative to pursue a career in this
sector, because there is a shortage
of black people, as well as females.
It has been shown in the aviation
demographic statistics that aviation is
still a very white and male-dominated
industry,” Major added.
ADA deputy chairperson Boitumelo
Katisi said that as an organisation
that mentors and guides young
pilots, ADA was part of the movement
to change the aviation industry in the
ADA was gearing up to host a benefit
concert to raise funds for young
pilots, she said.
“We set a target to fund at least 100
pilots, and more if possible, despite
their financial woes.
“We also aim to create aviation
awareness in South Africa as a whole,
but mainly among the youth, and
especially the black youth of South
Africa,” said Katisi.
“Our aim is to heighten the exposure
and awareness of aviation-based
careers and open them up to people
from underprivileged backgrounds,”