While skygazing as a child, Asnath Mahapa, was enchanted by airplane lights but little did she know they would fuel a dream that would be game changing.

Asnath was enchanted by the lights of airplanes flying overhead as a child, but little did she know that her skygazing would be the catalyst to her becoming South Africa’s first black female commercial pilot.

Asnath has become more than “the first black female commercial pilot”, she is a beacon of hope to all girls with dreams of being pilots.

After making history as South Africa’s first black female pilot in 1998, Asnath didn’t stop there. She wanted to use her platform to make sure more women could make it in aviation.

She opened the African College of Aviation in 2012 to help train the next generation of budding female flight talent.

African College of Aviation is the first flight training school to be 100% African owned and also the first to be managed by African women.

An early fascination

Asnath said she was fascinated by aircrafts early on.

She said: “Since I was a little girl, I always dreamt of becoming a pilot and being able to fly the Boeing 747 for South African Airways. While I was visiting my aunt, I met her neighbour who was a pilot and I remember thinking to myself how can one person manage to fly such a big machine?

“That is when I decided that if someone else can do it, so can I. That was where the dream was born and I have never looked back since, all I wanted to do was fly.”

Male-dominated fields

She was studying electrical engineering at the University of Cape Town when the aviation bug bit and she remembered those lights flying overhead.

She said: “Studying electrical engineering as a woman, there was a lot of pressure on me to perform well. I had to work extra hard to prove to them that I belonged in this field just as much as they did.

“My proudest moment was being part of the book, The 100 Greatest Women in Aviation in the World. Being internationally recognised was something I never expected would happen to me and I felt proud that my hard work had paid off in the best way possible.”

Her pursuit wasn’t without challenges. Not only was she the only woman in her flight classes, but the first few times she flew, she got incredibly ill.

“I was persistent. I went back again. I went back until I stopped feeling sick,” she explained.

Leaving a legacy

The need to change the experiences of female pilot trainees prompted Asnath Mahapa to start African College of Aviation.

She said: “I have been a pilot for more than 15 years and I still see young women go through the same challenges I went through when I was doing my training. Having gone through those challenges myself, it only made sense to me that I was probably the best person to understand where they are coming from and to try and address their challenges using the experience I have.

“That’s how African College of Aviation was started. This way, women are free to come and ask for help and even do their training at the school,”

Book your flight now on flysaa.com and Captain Asnath Mahapa could take you on a journey of a lifetime.