Asnath Mahapa who took to the skies in 1998 as the first black female pilot in South Africa, has revealed that her father never liked the idea of her becoming a pilot, but his resistance didn’t stop her.
In an interview with CNN, Mahapa said, “When I told my father I wanted to become a pilot, he never even entertained the idea.”
The sight of the big things (planes) flying in the skies intrigued her as a teenager, and she decided she would one day be in control of those planes.
“It just dawned on me that those big things that we see in the skies, someone is actually in charge of them. I thought if someone can fly this thing, that means I can also do it,” she said.
Mahapa initially enrolled in the University of Cape Town to study electrical engineering, but dropped out after a year and went to a flight school, but the school soon came with its own challenges.
She was the only woman in her class throughout, which meant she had to work ten times harder than the men she attended classes with.
“My first time, I felt sick. I was persistent, I went back again, I went back until I stopped feeling sick,” she said.
"I didn’t know I was the first black woman until 2003, until about four years later. And I was still the only one at the time and I did not know. Before I knew it I was on TV, front page of newspapers, and that came as a shock because I was still young, I was 22 at the time, I was very young,” she said.
In order to set the stage for others to follow, Mahapa opened the African College of Aviation in 2012.
For her, it’s about trying to help women who aspire to become pilots. She sees a lot of black women going through the same things that she went through as a very young lady, they still struggle to get jobs after they qualify, most of them they struggle with finances because it’s a very expensive industry and also Mahapa wants to do is help such women.
“I don’t think there will ever be enough women in the industry. If I can change the world I would tell the girls go out there, do it and I will tell the boys there is nothing wrong with a girl becoming a pilot, becoming an astronaut for that matter,” she said.
She is of the strong view that, boys must accept that girls can be anything they want to be and that girls should believe in themselves that they can be whoever they want to be.
Despite the challenges Mahapa insists she has no regrets about her decision to pursue a career in aviation.
“Ask any pilot, they’ll tell you, our view from our office is the best in the world, so why would you get bored doing a job like that?”