How has your upbringing influenced your mindset as a woman in aviation?
I was very privileged to grow up in a community with remarkable women: my mother raised seven kids, and she was one of the first female school principals during apartheid in South Africa. Women in my community were doing amazing things, and because of this particular mindset and freedom, as a woman I knew that I could do everything. To me, it was normal for women to be educated, for women to be as powerful as men, and for women to give back to their community, because that's what we do: we lift as we rise.
Did you expect it to be a difficult path to follow?
I only realised that I was the first Black woman with a commercial helicopter license in South Africa when I received my wings. That's when I picked up that I was actually doing something people weren't expecting me to do. Being the first can weigh in on your mental health, but I was lucky to receive strong support from the people who trained me at SAPS, and this helped me overcome the challenges I encountered. For example, according to the flying regulations at that time, I didn't weigh enough to fly a helicopter solo. But my instructor encouraged me to find a solution rather than quit straight away. We added sandbags in the helicopter so that I could complete my flight hours, and it became a joke between us, because I was always carrying a sandbag before flying. I think it's a good example of the power of mentoring, and the impact it can have on young people: everyone needs someone who is here to cheer them on and show them what they can accomplish.
Airbus SE published this content on 25 September 2021 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 25 September 2021 08:31:02 UTC.