DREAM COME TRUE: Young black pilots Dennis Lephuting, Boitumelo Katisi, Lesang Tshoke and Olorato Major saw their dream careers take off. Picture: Supplied.
DREAM COME TRUE: Young black pilots Dennis Lephuting, Boitumelo Katisi, Lesang Tshoke and Olorato Major saw their dream careers take off. Picture: Supplied.

Young, black pilots reach for the stars

By Nokuthula Zwane Time of article published Feb 7, 2018

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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,”

Khoza said. 

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

of women

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,”

Khoza said.

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,”

said Tshikovhi. 

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,”

Katisi explained. 

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