Africa: 9 African female pilots dominating the African aviation industry
For African women, history shows that it took a very long time for them to enjoy basic human rights. Women and children are regarded as the weaker sex and are at risk of suffering the most in society.
Through the fight for equality and provision of human rights and privileges to women in society, they have proven that they are a force to reckon with and a set back is no reason not to rise as fast they can.
Africa got its first female pilot in 1964 but the great achievement was not enough to encourage other women to get into aviation. Over the years, women were only training as flight attendants which seemed to be the most attractive work for them within the aviation sector. Piloting was left for men until women started gaining an interest in the field to create diversity and have their dreams come true.
In more recent times, African women are leading and dominating the spaces they find themselves but only a few are the real bosses of male-dominated industries.
Africa’s first female pilot was Melody Millicent Dankwa.
On June 22, 1964, Dankwa flew solo for the first time in a de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft, making her the first Ghanaian and African woman ever to fly an aeroplane single-handedly.
While studying as a pilot, she became the only student pilot allowed some ten minutes of solo flying time during an Air Force Day organised in Takoradi, where she ended with a spotless landing to the admiration of many including Dr Nkrumah. Danquah was presented with her Wings as a qualified pilot by Kofi Baako, the then Minister of Defence on April 15, 1965.
In 2006, former president John Kufuor honoured her with the Companion of the Order of the Volta in recognition of her ground breaking spirit and courage.
She passed away on March 18, 2016, at the age of 79.
At 24, Esther became one of Rwanda’s most-revered certified private and commercial pilots and the first female in Rwanda to become certified as a commercial airline pilot. Her dream was birthed out of the death of her dad who passed away in an air crash when she was a child.
Now at 30, Esther is still making great strides in her home country Rwanda and visits schools to talk to girls who dream of entering the aviation field which is male-dominated. She flies for RwandAir, the country’s national airline.
At just 20 years old, Amel became South Sudan’s second female pilot and for her accomplishment, she has been widely celebrated in Africa and in her home country. Ajongo went to aviation school in Nairobi, Kenya, where she spent two and a half years learning the ropes. Amel is the daughter of the country’s former defence minister, James Ajongo Mawut and was encouraged to pursue her dreams at a very young age.
In an interview with Hot in Juba, Ajongo said she ended up as the only woman in her class even though it had started out with eight women in a class of eleven. Ajongo now joins the ranks of the first female pilot of South Sudan, Captain Aluel Bol, who made history in 2011. She had worked at Ethiopian Airlines and Fly Dubai before joining Delta Airline.
Irene Koki Mutungi
Irene Koki Mutungi was only 17 when she put her name down in Kenyan history as the first female pilot in 1993. Twenty-one years later, the determined woman once again left her mark in history as the first female pilot in Africa to be certified as a Captain of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft. Koki ventured into an occupation that was dominated by men at a time when women in Kenya and Africa were discouraged from venturing into science and engineering.
Hassana & Huseina Edili Ogaji
hese Nigerian twins are senior aviation officers with Aero Contractors, with about seven years experience to their credit. Despite living in a patriarchal society, the Ogajis hope that females will be recognized within and outside the industry, proving that the African woman is capable of venturing into any field she chooses. The twins have been very vocal about the struggles they face as females in aviation school and always encourage young girls to join the industry.
Aluel Bol Aluenge
Aluenge defied all odds by becoming a pilot in the airline industry after living as a refugee in Kenya during the ethnic and political conflict of South Sudan. She holds the distinction of being the first female South Sudanese pilot working for Ethiopian Airlines and Fly Dubai.
After earning her ACCA Part 2 at just 22, Bianchi-Quarshie became the youngest female pilot in Ghana. Her first flight in Ghana was as a co-pilot, where she flew to Kumasi and Tamale for Africa World Airlines. On her experience joining the male-dominated aviation ranks, Bianchi-Quarshie says, “The guys bullied me, but it toughened me. As a lady in this profession, one needs a huge ounce of confidence and discovery of self.”
Ouma became the first female pilot in Niger in 2015. She was one of the Nigerien Airforce members trained by the United States as part of a programme to help fight the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram. She was also the first to fly the Cessna 208 Caravan an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, which can perform a variety of military tasks.
Influenced to become a pilot when she heard her aunty talk about her neighbour, who was a pilot. Asnath Mahapa became the first black female pilot trainee in South Africa in 2003 and the founder of the African College of Aviation (Pty) Limited that gives special places for young women interested in the Aviation sector. She has also flown for Red Cross and World Food Programmes in Central and West Africa and was appointed as the beneficiary of South African Airways level two cadet pilot training programme.
At 24, Second Lieutenant Thokozile Muwamba made history as the first female fighter pilot in Zambia. Thokozile joined the Zambian military in 2012 after her first year in university and was enrolled in the male-dominated Zambian Air Force program to train as a female fighter pilot.
BY ELIZABETH OFOSUAH JOHNSON