Black women need to take to the skies

Of the 3 839 airline transport pilot’s licence holders in South Africa, there are just 17 black women – and the status quo needs to change.

In South Africa’s everchanging landscape, the need for pilots of colour – particularly women – to fill a near vacuum is becoming urgent.

“The status quo cannot continue unchallenged,” said South Africa Civil Aviation Authority director Poppy Khoza.

Of the 3 839 airline transport pilot’s licence holders – the highest category of pilot’s licence – there were just 17 black women at the end of the 2017 financial year: four coloureds, five Indians and eight African women.

In the helicopter airline transport pilot’s licence category, there was just one African woman. At the end of March 2017, statistics indicate that there were no coloured or Indian women with a helicopter airline transport pilot’s licence in South Africa.

Khoza noted South Africa could no longer rely on a single sector of society as the only source of aviation talent in an era when the world was running short of skilled aviators.

At the end of the 2016-17 financial year, 33 452 people were licensed in the South African aviation industry.

“When cabin crew members are excluded, the number came to 17 622. Out of this figure, the combined total of African, Coloured and Indian men and women was 1 461, while that of women of all races was 1 530,” said Khoza.

There were 3 839 airline transport pilot’s licence holders in total.

Transformation was possible, Khoza said, pointing at her own organisation, which boasts 50% female representation on its executive team.

“The jury is still out on whether the industry is unwilling or unable to transform. There are many possible reasons it is going at a snail’s pace,” Khoza said.

“The country and those who are supportive of the principles of transformation know it is possible when you put your heart into it.”


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