Helicopter pilot David ‘Blackhawk’ Simelane makes SANParks history
Pretoria - David “Blackhawk“ Simelane has made history by becoming the first black game capture rated pilot for SA National Parks (SANParks).
He became the first among his peers after completing his game capture rating – which is an endorsement on his pilot licence – with flying colours on December 2, to make the park proud of him.
SANParks chief executive Fundisile Mketeni said: “We are extremely proud of Simelane and his achievement.
“He is an inspiration to many young black aspiring pilots and we hope that his passion will inspire more people to choose this industry as their careers.”
Game capture rating has been described as a very complex pilot endorsement rating, where a helicopter pilot needs to take into consideration the environment, animals and the crew, all while managing the helicopter itself.
The proud environment lover said: “Working as a pilot for SANParks is a calling. It is tough but I am in a blessed position to say that this is not a job for me, it’s a passion.
“Couple that with the fact that I am doing it in the same park I first fell in love with wildlife 25 years ago, and it’s just a dream come true for me.”
Simelane only started working for SANParks earlier this year, when he became Kruger National Park’s first black helicopter pilot working under the entity air services.
He has been a helicopter pilot for 16 years and has flown all over the world, including Madagascar and South Sudan.
“I have a passion for flying, and now I get to combine that with my love for wildlife and nature. I wake up in the morning knowing that every flight makes a difference in nature conservation and in people’s lives,” Simelane said.
Mketeni emphasised that Simelane’s achievement was a reflection of SANParks’ intention to improve employees’ expertise to address inequalities and disparities in staff profiles. He added that SANParks was committed to the development and implementation of access, equity and equal employment opportunities within the organisation.
“As world society has started to realise how important both our natural and cultural heritage is, and with a passionate and educated person like Simelane at SANParks we can continue to conserve and leave future generations with the natural beauty and heritage of South Africa.
“Today is a proud day for SANParks and the SANParks Air Services. We salute David Simelane and wish him well as he goes onwards and upwards,” Mketeni said.