For The People

South Africa’s First Black Female Fighter Pilot

Mandisa Mfeka is a young black female fighter pilot raised in Kwazulu-Natal who made headlines after the inauguration of the President, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mandisa excelled academically and also in sports throughout her schooling career. Her parents were teachers and they instilled her love for education, “My parents engraved in me that education is the gateway to my dreams hence I worked really hard to get the grades I need to make it into aviation, ” she explained. She would follow her father when he went to play soccer and that encouraged her to become an athlete. She was seen as an all-rounder, winning sports woman of the year in school, being surrounded by trophies and also receiving matric academic honours.

Mandisa was first introduced to aviation at the age of 5, when she would go to Regina Airport with her mother and grandmother. At the time they could not afford to buy tickets into the air show so they would watch everything unfold from the fence. Although not physically in the premises, she said she could still feel the excitement and experience everything that was going on inside. At that time, never did she imagine that she could ever venture into aviation, rather she envisaged herself becoming a medical doctor. It was when she was 16-years-old and researching different careers that required Maths and Science that she came across a pamphlet of the South African Air Force. She could not contain her excitement when she realised that through the Air Force she could become a pilot.

Mandisa joined the South African Air Force and was determined to be physically fit. She says being a woman in an industry that is predominantly male has taught her how to relate to them, “Being in this masculine dominated field, I had to learn how to understand men and the mannerisms they come with, the ways in which they joke for example. I also had to learn how to set boundaries for myself and to be assertive so as to be taken seriously”.

Mandisa feels she is still junior in her career path and acknowledges that she still has a long way to go. She would like to become an instructor in the military so she can train others to advance in their aviation careers. She advises that everyone who has an interest in aviation should go to various aviation facilities and find out as much information as possible so that they can start working towards the necessary requirements.

Mandisa is a young black female South African fighter pilot and it is clear that her aspirations are in the skies.

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