Being a woman in aviation: "On female wings, the sky is the limit"

Being a woman in aviation: "On female wings, the sky is the limit"

Mbali Sindane | 22 August 2019

Challenging yourself to see how far you can go is an exciting thing. Aviation is broad and the only way to figure out where you fit in is to go out there, take up any challenge with an open mind and prove to yourself that you are capable. Above everything else, see yourself at the top after every challenge”, said Zinhle Mahlangu, a 21 year old air craft mechanic professional from eTwatwa, in the City of Ekhuruleni.

For some of us, our understanding could only extend to knowing about air crafts. However having a conversation with Zinhle has opened up a pool of knowledge about the existence of a whole industry – Aviation. Aviation has to do with flying and operating an air craft but is more than just being a pilot or a flight attendant. According to Zinhle, there are a many various careers within. These can range from aerospace engineering, air traffic control, and others. However as women, we hardly know about more than being pilot and flight attended because it is rare to be drawn to it. This is because we have very few female ambassadors in the industry and an existing environment that disables females to fully exercise exploring their full potential.

For Zinhle, becoming an aviation professional did not come as an automatic decision but was highly inspired and influenced by her foundational education journey. She attended at Dinoto Technical Secondary in Daveyton, where she was studying Mechanical technology as a trade subject and that led her to be deeply rooted in the field of engineering. During her year of matric in 2015, she attended an open day at Denel technical academy and it was on that day that she was exposed to air craft mechanics and decided it was thee career for her. That was the day she decided to be in the aviation space and applied to study at the academy. She was subsequently accepted and started with her studies in the year 2016.

According to Zinhle, an air craft mechanic does a number of various tasks concerning the well-being of an air craft to ensure that it is healthy and safe to fly (air worthy). These are tasks such as stripping down an aircraft to repair or replace parts (known in the aviation mechanic world as “overhauling”), running maintenance, diagnostics, etc. During her first year in 2016 when she was doing her theoretical studies, she was fully consumed and excited by her studies and couldn’t wait to start the actual work. “During the on-the-job training there was a lot to be done. We had to perform tasks like shadowing artisans, studying mechanics manuals, and making sure that you know the air craft by heart. This was very adventurous but at the same time, a lot of work. Therefore, being passionate is what keeps you there!” she said with a smile.

With the advancements of technology and automation, the industry is becoming friendlier to women because of machines that assist with lifting of heavy machinery and equipment. Zinhle states that the trainers at the academy are very helpful with familiarizing students with the operations but also firm on ensuring that the students understand the importance of their work. “Aviation is a small and forever evolving world. You have to stay on top of your game and move with the times. As a woman, you have to work twice as hard to prove yourself, present yourself competently and make people believe in your abilities. You have to show up and do your best at all times to show that you are competent. You have to show that this is out of love and passion and not because you were granted an opportunity to be there. So to all the woman and girls out there, trust yourself and your abilities, you can do this! ” said Zinhle