Solo flights for SAPS trainee pilots at Kishugu Aviation Training Organisation
On 07 June, the first of nine female student pilots took to the skies in her debut solo flight. These pilots were handpicked by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to be trained as light aircraft, fixed wing commercial pilots.
“It was a phenomenal experience to be up in the air by myself for the first time,” said an overjoyed Tebogo Boshielo (21) after a flawless landing.
Tebogo is a student at Kishugu Aviation Training Organisation (ATO). She was selected in the SAPS youth development initiative to be trained as a pilot for the SAPS. Transport Education Training Authority (TETA) funds this initiative.
She realised in gr. 9 that she wanted to fly. “My Life Orientation teacher suggested that I consider a career in aviation. I did some research and realised that I desperately wanted to become a pilot.” Aviation is, however, a very difficult field to get into. Tebogo applied for a number of cadetships and was busy with a learnership at Momentum, when she heard that she had been accepted into the SAPS training programme.
The trainees – all between 18 and 25 years old, with an above average pass in maths and science – were selected after an arduous two-year process. More than 2,500 applicants from all over South Africa applied for this opportunity.
The contract, which runs over 18 months, was awarded to Kishugu ATO in Nelspruit.
These ladies started their training at the beginning of April this year and had since written a number of examinations and started building towards their flying hours. Tebogo maintains an average of above 90%.
Rudolf Erasmus, flight instructor at Kishugu ATO said, “I enjoy working with these students. The sky is the limit if a student has a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and is prepared to put in hard work.”
Carel van der Merwe, Head of Department at Kishugu ATO, says that each student pilot progresses at a different pace. They first need to acquire aviation knowledge, practise skills and gain confidence. Between the instructor and student, they determine the student’s readiness to go solo. The Chief Flight Instructor then authorises the first solo flight.
After disembarking, Tebogo was christened with a bucket of ice cold water. Getting dunked after one’s first solo flight is an age old tradition in the flying community. Tebogo is well on her way to achieving her wings and is looking forward to serving as a pilot in the SAPS. She would also like to someday get involved in youth development and encourage young people to follow their dreams.
Six of these nine ladies have since completed their first solo flights.
According to Col Johmari Minnie, the unit commander at the SAPS Mpumalanga Air Wing, they are very proud of these ladies’ progress. “We are excited to see them succeed.”