AT just 19 years of age, ambitious teenager Besa Mumba has just secured her dream job as a pilot flying with the nation’s scheduled airline, Proflight Zambia.
The bold move makes Ms Mumba the country’s youngest commercial pilot and a role model for women across the world, as well as cementing Proflight’s positon as a champion of training and nurturing young local talent.
Ms Mumba was born in December 1996 in Lusaka. She began school in 1999 at Sunshine Primary School, then went to St Mary’s where she was head girl for the 2011 to 2012 school year before heading for flight training in South Africa.
But what spurred he to have the heart and passion to become a pilot?
“Curiosity made me venture into an aviation career. Initially I wanted to be cabin crew but I thought to myself: ‘why not be the person who flies the aircraft?’ From then I had questions on how planes fly, how they moved in the sky and I wanted to know how pilots knew where they were and where they were going. My curiosity grew,” said Ms Mumba.
“That’s why I decided to venture into the aviation as a pilot. I am very blessed, and proud to have had the opportunity to go to flight school to study and become a pilot,” she said.
Shortly after receiving grade 12 results in March 2013, Besa was accepted to attend the South African Flight Training Academy in Heidelberg, Gauteng. There she started her Private Pilot Licence course in April 2013 and began flying the same month. The flight training course lasted two years.
To get her commercial licence she underwent extra and more complex training at SIMU Flight in Pretoria. Through the first quarter of 2015 she did final training towards obtaining a Commercial Pilots Licence, which she earned in July of that year at the age of 18.
She was employed by Proflight Zambia as a First Officer this month and she has already flown more than 15 hours, on Zambian domestic routes to Kasama, Lower Zambezi, and Luangwa.
As a First officer she flies alongside the captain of the aircraft on the airline’s Caravan aircraft.
“Proflight Zambia was impressed with Besa’s determination and drive and we believe she has the will to succeed in what is very competitive industry,” said Proflight’s Director of Government and Industry Affairs Capt. Philip Lemba. “We will support Besa all the way, and look forward to her growing her career with us.”
Besa comes from a family of three and is the last born. One sister is a fourth-year law student at the University of Zambia and the other is a medical doctor. She is very grateful to her parents as they supported her career plans. “I love you mum and dad. Thank you for your support, as you never doubted me,” she said.
Besa is happy to have been given an opportunity by Proflight Zambia, “I am extremely humbled they gave me a chance to live my dream and this shows they have confidence in me to have given me the opportunity.”
“I am grateful to all the pilots I have meet so far both at Proflight Zambia and in South Africa during my training. I have been received very warmly, everyone has really been nice to me as a young female pilot and, I don’t feel intimated I actually feel at home when in the skies, my colleagues are doing everything to make me feel comfortable,” she said.
A vibrant and intelligent young woman, Ms Mumba looks forward to inspiring more women in Zambia to take up flying as an attainable lifetime career.
Her experience so far shows that the industry is not biased nor favours anyone be they male or female, it is equal opportunity for everyone, only hard work and determination will take you there.
“If you have a dream, work hard you can get to where you want,” she said. “I feel amazing! I hope the Zambian people will be inspired by my story to also reach for their dreams and goals because I think the sky is not the limit.”
In five years she sees herself becoming a captain, flying the big jets at Proflight Zambia. She is proud of her country and wants to continue working for her home country to make it better. Otherwise, for Ms Mumba things look pretty good and she seems to love what she does.
Ms Mumba is following in the footsteps of a number of illustrious female flyers, including Zambia’s first female pilot Yichida Ndhlovu, and Major Nina Tapula, who was the first female pilot in the Zambian Air Force.
Speaking in 2012 at a Proflight-sponsored Women’s Day event, Major Tapula told guests about her career path and its highs and lows and said: “Becoming the first female pilot in the air force – you will all agree it is still a man’s world and as much as we are trying to break down those barriers there are still a few hurdles to get over.”
But she added: “My trailblazing has paid off and there are now quite a few women in the air force. I would like to encourage ladies to think about what you want in your life. What goes hand in hand with the importance of time is good decision making. Even if you make a wrong decision it is important that you keep going or know when to back down.”