While our first black female pilot, Asnath Mahapa, continues to help other female Africans to take off, Nandi Zama has emerged the first black woman qualified to fly the C-130 military cargo plane.
Nandi Zama emerged as Africa’s first female to to qualify as commander of the C-130 aircraft at 28 Squadron based at Air Force Base Waterloof.
The 31-year-old, who joined the military after she matriculated from Saint Gregory College in the Natal Midlands in 2003, made a name for herself by fulfilling her dreams of becoming a pilot.
She said she was in Grade 11 back in her hometown in KwaMashu, a township 32km north of Durban, during a career exhibition, when she decided she wanted to be a pilot and after completing her matric, she applied and was accepted into the air force and from there she worked hard every step of the way.
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Speaking to news reporters on her achievement, Zama said her achievement has nothing to do with her race or her gender and that she always wanted to fly the operational line.
“This is ultimately where you end up in the organisation. I am really happy and proud to have gotten command of such a powerful aircraft.
“The African part and the female part is not the main achievement. We are not celebrating the African female part, but rather the fact that I achieved this and I am working with an efficient team who welcomed me in their command,” she said in a stern voice.
Major Nandi Zama arrived Pretoria on Saturday afternoon from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where she conducted a support flight to the DRC.
At 41 Squadron she flew the Cessna Carava‚ known for its power and flexibility. From 2008‚ she flew the Casa 212 at 44 Squadron.
In 28 Squadron‚ where she is now‚ she commands the C-130 cargo plane‚ a four-engine military transport aircraft.
“Flying the plane is not something you can explain in words. You just have to be there to experience it‚” she said, adding that the job is a dangerous one and that each time she got into the aircraft there is an element of risk, but that she cannot say there were instances where she thought she won’t come back home.
She also said in her profession there was no difference between any of the pilots in the air force.“If you do your bit with regard to this fraternity it does not matter if you are male or female,” Zama said.
She advised up coming female citizens who have dreams of becoming a pilot like her, to follow her footsteps to decide what they want to do and remain committed to it.
“Make the best of it and don’t focus much on the fact that you are a girl. Instead, use your power as a female and become as good as you can be. It does not have to be in aviation.
“Being a female should not be a limiting fact, but instead an enhancing factor,” Zama said.
Meanwhile, SANDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ntsikelelo Mantshongo said Zama’s command of the C-130 came with a huge responsibility.
“If there’s a mission and she needs to take the aircraft‚ she needs to assemble a team that includes specialists on board. The plane can take up to 160 people‚” Mantshongo said.