Female pilots inspiring youth to dream of careers in the cockpit

Airline pilots Fatima Jakoet and Refilwe Ledwaba are leading the way in gradually transforming the aviation industry.

Jakoet is the founder of the Sakhi-Kamva Foundation, a non-profit organisation for creating opportunities for the youth to get involved in the aerospace industry.

Ledwaba is the first black female helicopter pilot for Saps and the founder of non-profit organisation Girls Fly programme.

The pair shared their unconventional journeys to the cockpit and discussed the barriers to entry in the industry.

Read: Fatima Jakoet's dream is to groom South Africa's aspiring pilots

Jakoet previously worked as a narcotics expert and says she realised her calling to fly when she stood in front of an airplane during a drug bust at the airport.

Jakoet says that her job requires skills such as leadership, assertiveness, confidence and problem-solving, in addition to theoretical and practical knowledge.

It's almost an impossible dream to think that you can become a pilot, because you don't have the role model or exposure.

Fatima Jakoet, airline pilot and founder of Sakhikamva Foundation

I didn't have the exposure, so I want everyone to have the opportunity while I'm in the aviation industry.

Fatima Jakoet, airline pilot and founder of Sakhikamva Foundation

Also read: Pilots get paid big bucks, but the training costs are sky high

Ledwaba says her curiosity for aviation was peaked when she boarded her first ever commercial flight which was flown by a female pilot.

The aim is to target 9 000 girls in the nine provinces. When I land, I spend two days in each area. We do a lot of work with the girls and have several programmes.

Refilwe Ledwaba, SA Express pilot instructor and founder of Girls Fly programme

She abandoned her initial dream of becoming a doctor and is now a pilot instructor, teaching others how to fly.

Ledwaba is currently flying across the country, visiting remote ares in small aircraft to educate young women about opportunities in aviation.

I was never exposed to careers such as aviation.

Refilwe Ledwaba, SA Express pilot instructor and founder of Girls Fly programme

I was fascinated that there were females in the field. It was my first flight.

Refilwe Ledwaba, SA Express pilot instructor and founder of Girls Fly programme

I got a job in the airline as a cabin crew member, that's where the transition happened.

Refilwe Ledwaba, SA Express pilot instructor and founder of Girls Fly programme

They both lament that the lack of information about funding opportunities and the prohibitive costs of flying lessons and pilot training are the biggest challenges to cracking it in the field.

Take a listen to the inspiring conversation:

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