Meet Asnath Mahapa, South Africa’s First Black Female Pilot
Mahapa broke several boundaries when she became the first African female pilot in her native South Africa.
“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.”
The young woman’s plane-navigating ambitions weren’t met with approval by everyone, though; in fact, her own father was her very first naysayer. She shared,
“When I told my father I wanted to become a pilot, he never even entertained the idea.”
Wanting to be an obedient daughter, Mahapa enrolled in an electrical engineering course at the University of Cape Town as her father wished; however. her heart was simply not in it, and she dropped out one year later, after which she started flight school.
There, too, she encountered obstacles.
“I was the only woman in my class the whole time,” she said. “I had to work very hard. I had to probably work ten times harder than the men that I was with in the classroom.”
Mahapa’s own health proved to be a stumbling block as well, as she experienced motion sickness her first few times flying.
“My first time, I felt sick,” she said. “I was persistent, I went back again, I went back until I stopped feeling sick.”
When, after much hard work and sacrifice, she broke barriers by becoming the first African female pilot to take to the skies in 1998, she was completely unaware of the milestone and history that she had just created. She stated,
“I didn’t know I was the first black woman until 2003, until about four years later. And I was still the only one at the time and I did not know,” she said. “Before I knew it I was on TV, front page of newspapers, and that came as a shock because I was still young, I was 22 at the time, I was very young.”
Not content with simply creating history, she decided that she wanted to help other young women realize their friendly skies dreams as well. In 2012, she founded and opened the African College of Aviation.
“For me, it’s about trying to help women who aspire to become pilots,” she said. “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.”
Mahapa also hopes to change, through her work at the aviation college, the fact that her field of choice is still largely male-dominated.
By: Danielle Dixon
Follow her on Twitter: @tooprettydani