When she joined the military straight from high school‚ Nandi Zama never thought she would make history by flying South African Air Force planes.
On Friday the 31-year-old major touched down the military cargo plane C-130 at the Waterkloof Air Force base‚ as part of her evaluation and became the first black woman to qualify to fly this particular aircraft.
The mammoth task at hand – flying the C-130 and being responsible for the safe arrival of both the aircraft and crew members on board from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
SANDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ntsikelelo Mantshongo said Zama’s command of the C-130 came with a huge responsibility.
“If there’s a mission and she needs to take the aircraft‚ she needs to assemble a team that includes specialists on board. The plane can take up to 160 people‚” Mantshongo said.
Zama matriculated from Saint Gregory College in the Natal Midlands in 2003 and joined the Air force.
“I went through military training and then I was at the central flying school in 2006 and got my wings in December. In 2007 I was transferred to 41 Squadron‚” she said.
At 41 Squadron she flew the Cessna Carava‚ known for its power and flexibility. From 2008‚ she flew the Casa 212 at 44 Squadron.
In 28 Squadron‚ where she is now‚ she commands the C-130 cargo plane‚ a four-engine military transport aircraft.
“Flying the plane is not something you can explain in words. You just have to be there to experience it‚” she said.