My dream destination is San Francisco, California. The approach is absolutely beautiful. It comes over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and is one of the trickiest in the world. I would love to successfully complete one.
Her romance with the skies began when she attended an air show, which inspired her to enrol in her fi rst fl ight school fi ve years ago. Today, the Eastern Capeborn and Joburg-based Sive Mfenyana is a licensed pilot navigating the skies. What’s next? Captain, of course! From a young age, my flight school mates were exposed to aviation and I was not. I had the feeling that a lot of the questions I asked were stupid, so I refrained from interacting with a lot of people during my training and worked extra-hard to fi gure things out by myself. I felt that I couldn’t slip up because of how much money it cost to train. There was a time in my initial training when I needed to prove to the people closest to me that this was a dream worth supporting and one that I could achieve, regardless of what others thought or said.
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My greatest achievement has been going solo. On 8 April 2014, I took off by myself, completed a circuit, and ended my first-ever solo flight. This was followed by a bucket of water over my head – an old pilots’ ritual to congratulate a student on their remarkable achievement. What a day, what a feeling! The biggest lesson I have learnt about myself through my profession is that I need to be more assertive. I’m extremely hard on myself and I sometimes let disappointment interfere with my progress. Only 8% of the pilots hired by our national carrier are women, last time I checked. I still get described as a woman pilot and not just a pilot.
While there are women slowly coming into the industry, there’s also a myth that suggests that if radical transformation is implemented, standards will drop. This is why I think the bit of transformation that has happened is going unnoticed because it isn’t enough. We can do more by encouraging young girls to take on this path by making this fi eld more relatable, and less tomboy-ish. Being a pilot is just as fun and as girlie as being a beautician, a magazine editor, a doctor or even a mechanic; there are no limits. Mentorship programmes would also be great. There’s nothing worse than trying to successfully navigate your path to achieving your dream in unknown territory, with noone to guide you. Lastly, bursaries are extremely necessary. Flight training is expensive and could discourage young potential pilots, should they not have the means.
The person who inspires me is my gogo. She is intelligence, power, beauty, self-discipline and love personifi ed. She is now a retired nurse who lives in a village in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape. Amelia Earhart, the first woman aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, also inspires me. She symbolises pure bravery. I draw a lot of inspiration from her quotes, my favourite being: ‘Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.’ Next… in the short term, I plan to continue building my hours and being aligned with a certain airline early next year. I’d also like to start a network for women pilots, where we can freely talk about airplanes as well as the diffi culties and the joys of our profession, while encouraging each other, laughing and just being ourselves. I think we sometimes feel the pressure to come across as masculine to have our opinions respected, and I’d like to change that. Long term, I’d like to open a fl ight school to train girls.