Meet - Major Mandisa Nomcebo Mfeka,
Major Mandisa Mfeka’s story of defiance
South Africa’s first black female Fighter Pilot.
Mfeka was born in Durban and spent the first years of her childhood in Ntuzuma before moving to Malvern.
Mfeka said her love for aviation began when she was around 5 years old.
“My gran and mom would take us to see the air shows at the Virginia Airport. We would park at the side of the airport and watch the planes take off. It was all very exciting,” she said.
Mfeka had wanted to be a doctor. Although she was not sure which speciality she would venture into, she believed she would end up in the medical field.
But that changed.
“One day I realised that becoming a doctor was not my dream. It was my dad’s dream for me. He wanted to be a doctor but ended up becoming a teacher.
One quote that Major Mfeka lives by is,
“The sky is the baseline.”
Which means, the excellence bar that you pushed yesterday should be your starting point, tomorrow.
“So I had to sit and ask myself what was it that I wanted. I began researching careers in maths and science.
“A classmate was talking about wanting to be an aeronautical engineer and I thought that was so cool,” she said.
Mfeka said her uncle brought home a book about careers in maths and science and she was fascinated by it.
“I was reading the book and as I turned a page, I saw a recruitment article by the South African Air Force. My grades were really good at school and I met the entry requirements. I was thrilled,” she said.
“From the moment I discovered the air force, I knew that is what I wanted to do. I have not looked back since.”
In 2008, she joined the SAAF. In 2010, she started at Central Flying School in Langebaan, just outside Cape Town.
In 2011, she earned her wings.
Mfeka is a combat pilot within the SAAF but believes this is only the beginning for her.
Mfeka, who matriculated from Queensburgh Girls’ High School, said her job has its fair share of challenges.
“It is a male-dominated industry and you do miss having other women around. It is nice to have a woman to speak to and to talk about our jobs. “
Mfeka said despite her industry being male-dominated, she is treated like an equal.
For young girls wanting to follow in her footsteps, Mfeka said maths, science and geography were important subjects.
“They must also attend air shows and interact with pilots. There are a few flight schools in Durban and I highly recommend a visit to those schools. Girls must try to do as much research as they can and ask lots of questions,” she said.
Mfeka has high hopes for her future and is not planning on settling down any time soon.
She remains focused on her career which includes one day commandeering the world- renowned fighter jet, the Gripen.