Zambia’s youngest commercial pilot, Besa Mumba, is now six months into her job with Proflight Zambia and has already clocked up 300 flying hours as well as proving an inspiration to young women and men across the country.
Besa Mumba came on board last year, after completing her training in Pretoria, South Africa, at the renowned SIMU Flight School. Now the 20-year-old is a fully-qualified pilot working full-time with Proflight Zambia, based in Lusaka.
She has already been back to her old high school, St Mary’s, to extol the virtues of being a female pilot in a former man’s world, and is looking forward to visiting more schools to tell eager young listeners just what flying a plane as a career really involves.
“A lot of people reach out to me and say they are inspired by my story,” she says. “They say that it is encouraging to the nation. This touches me and every day I am grateful to know that people can draw inspiration from me and my career path,” she said.
Besa decided to become a pilot four years ago, and since then has not looked back, having notched up over 300 flight hours as a First Officer on the Cessna Caravan aircraft where much of her day is spent.
“I enjoy being in the sky all the time,” says Besa. “My colleagues at work today look at me as any other pilot or member of staff. It has been a really worthwhile career for me. Of course, the career itself has its own challenges but overall I am happy that this is the path I chose because this is my passion and where my passion lies, my heart lies.”
Besa clearly has no regrets about her career path. “I am very happy to have the opportunity to fly for my home country. It’s satisfying and motivating to do something for the people around you, and knowing that you help build a better Zambia through your work is very fulfilling.”
She describes the experience of flying as spectacular: “I really love my work as a pilot. It has taken me far away and shown me many places around Zambia. I have been flying as First Officer pilot to Lower Zambezi, Kasama, Livingstone, Mfuwe and Ndola, with most of my frequent flights being along the Lusaka-to-Lower Zambezi route.”
Returning to her old school has been one of the highlights of her career. “It felt so thrilling to look back where I come from and know how I could make such a big difference by going back, to inspire others to do better as well. I am always humbled to know that I could make a difference in the lives of so many young people.”
Besa feels that as a female pilot in a traditionally male environment, her journey has only just begun. She continues to look forward to climbing her way up to the dizzy heights of captain and one day flying some of the company’s larger aircraft.
“It’s not about gender, about being male or female – everything is for everyone. We have equal opportunities,” she says. “I would like to reach a thousand hours by the end of 2017. It will be a great achievement for me, indicating my hard work. As you know, the pilot’s experience is measured by the number hours flown.”
Besa is particular excited about some of the new routes opening up on Proflight’s timetable. “I am very happy with the opening of the new routes from Ndola to Solwezi and Kasama, as they indicate growth in the work we do as an airline.”
Besa looks forward to flying to more places around Africa and beyond, as her career progresses.