South Africa’s First Black Female Pilot Is Helping Other African Women Take Off

Asnath Mahapa, South Africa’s first black female pilot is helping young women to make it in the aviation sector.

Asnath Mahapa’s journey to being South Africa’s first female pilot didn’t happen overnight.

She admitted to being fascinated by planes when she was a kid. Her fascination turned to determination when she realised that, although massive, the planes were being driven by someone–and she could be that someone.

“It just dawned on me that those big things that we see in the skies, someone is actually in charge of them,” she told CNN. “I thought if someone can fly this thing, that means I can also do it.”

Due to her father’s disapproval of her becoming a pilot, Asnath studied electrical engineering at the University of Cape Town, just like her father wanted.

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However, that would not last as Asnath dropped out and later began flight school. Flight school was not without hitches. Not only did she feel sick the first time she was airborne, but being the only woman in her class meant she hard to work twice as hard to prove herself.

“I was the only woman in my class the whole time. I had to work very hard. I had to probably work ten times harder than the men that I was with, in the classroom.”

Despite feeling sick the first time she took to the skies, Asnath did not give up. She kept returning until she stopped feeling sick.

In 1998, she became the first female African pilot in South Africa. Asnath Mahapa was, however, in shock being unaware that she had broken a barrier to becoming the first African female pilot at only 22.

In 2012, Asnath launched the African College of Aviation to help aspiring female pilots. She says she recognized that they still went through most of the problems she went through during her years at flight school and wanted to help them in her own way.

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“For me, it’s about trying to help women who aspire to become pilots. I still see a lot of black women going through the same things that I went through at that time. They still struggle to get jobs after they qualify.

“Most of them they struggle with finances because it’s a very expensive industry.”

Asnath is committed to ensuring that more women pick a career in the aviation sector.

“Boys must accept that girls can become anything they want and girls must believe in themselves that they can become anything that they want,” she said.