Covid-19 pandemic clipped Soweto pilot's wings — but she will fly again

Amanda Kandawire-Khoza said the aviation industry had been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Amanda Kandawire-Khoza said the aviation industry had been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Image: Supplied/ Amanda Kandawire-Khoza

A pilot from Soweto who soared to new heights at the controls of the world’s biggest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, is now jobless because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Amanda Kandawire-Khoza, 30, explained how the global pandemic had clipped her wings just a year after she joined the Dubai-based Emirates airline.

In a post on Facebook, she said: “On March 21 2019, I hopped on a plane and relocated to the UAE [United Arab Emirates] to start a new chapter of my life. Little did I know I would become the first black South African female to fly the A380.”

Amanda Kandawire-Khoza hopes more black women follow in her footsteps and fly the world's biggest aeroplanes.
Amanda Kandawire-Khoza hopes more black women follow in her footsteps and fly the world's biggest aeroplanes.
Image: Supplied / Amanda Kandawire-Khoza

“Fast forward to today and I am sadly saying farewell to the most incredible chapter of my life. Covid-19 has ended this journey prematurely for me, and my emotions have been through the most from the news that I have been made redundant.” 

Showing optimism despite joining the ranks of those whose careers have been upended by the effects of the coronavirus, Kandawire-Khoza said she did not take for granted all she had achieved.

“Even though I’ve lost my job, the one feeling that trumps them all is gratitude. I am incredibly blessed. My whole life I’ve thrown caution to the wind regarding the journey that God has entrusted to me. Joining Emirates was an incredible win for me, and getting to fly the A380 was the sweetest cherry of them all.

“Due to the hardships that black people continually endure, being here felt like it was bigger than me. It felt like it was a victory for more than just myself and I hope my having been here, having proven that nothing is impossible and that nobody can hold you back regardless of your background, circumstances, gender or race, has inspired you to go after all your heart's desires,” she said.

Amanda Kandawire-Khoza, who has since left the Emirates airlines, is heading back to SA where she will start her search for employment.
Amanda Kandawire-Khoza, who has since left the Emirates airlines, is heading back to SA where she will start her search for employment.
Image: Supplied / Amanda Kandawire-Khoza

Kandawire-Khoza explained how her love for planes grew after she flew for the first time when she was five. Straight after matric, she went to flight school. Bank loans by her parents, part-time jobs and finally scholarships funded the expensive career path.

She hailed the UAE's efforts at female empowerment, where she was one of several foreign female pilots who had left home to pursue their flying dreams. One thing she bemoaned was that she didn’t get to see other black women follow in her footsteps while she was still with Emirates.

Speaking to SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE, she explained how the pandemic hit the aviation industry badly, leaving even skilled people like herself in financial distress.

“The aviation industry has taken a huge knock as a result of Covid-19. Worldwide lockdowns meant no travelling, which meant no revenue for airlines.

LISTEN | Rapid Covid-19 testing kits to be provided to 20 African countries

Subscribe for free: iono.fm | Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Pocket Casts | Player.fm

“I was fortunate to be in a company that had a cargo section, so the cargo operation was able to continue as the world still needed to get supplies,” she said. “Sadly,  the majority of the airline operation relies on passengers travelling so the longer borders stayed closed, the worse the situation got. As a result salary cuts had to happen, and eventually some people lost their jobs, including myself.

“The industry will definitely recover. It may be slow but it will recover,” she said.

Kandawire-Khoza is packing up her life in the UAE and plans to return to SA after last being home in February, a month before the country's borders closed.

When she arrives, she plans to renew her SA airline transport pilot licence which she had converted to a UAE licence.

Then the hunt for work will start.

TimesLIVE

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X