When she joined the military straight from high school‚ Nandi Zama never thought she would be a commander of a massive military air force.
On Friday, she made history after she became the first black woman to qualify as a commander of C-130 cargo plane at 28 Squadron based at Air Force Base Waterloof. The C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed.
Zama joined the Air force in 2003 after she matriculated from Saint Gregory College in the Natal Midlands.
The 31-year-old major was in Grade 11 back in her hometown in KwaMashu, a township 32km north of Durban, during a career exhibition, when she decided she wanted to be a pilot and after completing her matric, she applied and was accepted into the air force and from there she made a name for herself.
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.
“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.
(Featured Image: Supplied)
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