ALMOST a month ago Major Mandisa Nomcebo Mfeka made headlines when she was named the world’s first African female fighter pilot. And she is South African. On Saturday she together with other female pilots, took to the skies in a Hawks formation display at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration. “We are very excited, our role is to participate in the fly pass to showcase the capability of the South African Air Force and also it is a way for us to salute the new commander-in-chief.”
Mfeka, who was born in Ntuzuma Kwazulu-Natal says she realised her love for aviation when she was about five years old when her mother and grandmother used to take them to airshows at the Virginia Airport.
They couldnt afford the entry fee and Mandisa says her mom would park outside the airport and they would watch the displays from there.
Growing up she thought she wanted to be a doctor but when she was in grade 10, she started researching careers that used math and science. As a result, she discovered aeronautical engineering. She decided to apply to different universities to study exactly that but she came across an article for the South African Air Force and after seeing that she exceeded the requirements of entry, plus she could become a pilot, she was immediately sold.
“The first time I realized I could join the air force and become a pilot was when I was 16 when I was doing research about careers in Maths and Science and I remember coming across an article by the South African Air Force.
“At that moment I knew I wanted to serve the defence force and I knew I wanted to become an air force pilot,” said Mfeka.
“From the moment I discovered the SAAF, I knew that’s what I wanted to do, and since then I haven’t looked back.”
In 2008 she joined the South African Air force (SAAF), and in 2010 she started at the Central Flying School in Langebaan; in 2011 she got her wings.
Her journey as a Combat Pilot shifted Mfeka’s perspective about what aviation is and what being a military practitioner looked like. Nonetheless, she believes that becoming a combat pilot has been an amazing experience.
“It is such a dynamic environment and so mentally stimulating, and I love it because I’m growing in my technical expertise and learning more about aerodynamics.”
One quote that Mandisa lives by is, “The sky is the baseline.” Which means, the excellence bar that you pushed yesterday should be your starting point, tomorrow.