Bravery and determination! Trailblazing South African female fighter pilot Major Mandisa Nomcebo Mfeka stands proudly as an inspiration to women and girls all over the world.
Not one to waver, right from childhood she knew where her calling lay – the aviation world. Her passion was sparked at age five when she in the company of her mother and grandmother would sit outside the airport to watch the airshows at Virginia Airport as affording admissions tickets was at the time for them, a luxury. This would form the basis of Mfeka’s rewriting the history books as South Africa’s First Black Female Fighter Pilot.
Upon completion of High School, armed with vision and clarity of purpose, Mandisa joined the South African Air Force after stumbling upon an article about the South African Air Force (SAAF) and the rest is history. Major Mandisa joined the SAAF in 2008 and in 2010 she enrolled at the Central Flying School in Langebaan in the Western Cape, going ahead in 2011 to receive her wings.
Recalling how it all started, Mandisa said:
“The first time I realized I could join the air force and become a pilot was when I was 16 when I was doing research about careers in Maths and Science and I remember coming across an article by the South African Air Force.
“At that moment I knew I wanted to serve the defense force and I knew I wanted to become an air force pilot,” said Mfeka.
“It is such a dynamic environment and so mentally stimulating, and I love it because I’m growing in my technical expertise and learning more about aerodynamics,” she told Good Things Guy.
On challenges encountered launching into a male-dominated space, according to her, the most challenging part was ensuring that she was physically strong and able to endure long distances.
“When we did our basic military training it was tough, you get trained physically. We ate proteins mostly because you must endure long distances, you must be agile, strong, quick thinking.”
Mandisa Mfeka explaining the role of combat pilot explained she protects the borders of SA, in partnership with the United Nations, and wades off potential threats: “The combat pilots are the first to engage any enemy infringement.”
In her interview on Afternoon Express, she described a combat pilot as “the military specialist and police of the air”.
“You’re utilising your aircraft as your weapon. So you will either neutralise or you will engage the enemy in the air or on the ground. If anybody crosses our borders, the fighter pilots are the first to inspect the force. If it is a negative one, then we have to neutralise it, unfortunately.”
In May 2019, the top pilot was one of the historic female pilots who took center stage during the air display at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.
Mfeka on the air force being part of the inauguration of the new South African president said at the time:
“We are very excited, our role is to participate in the fly pass to showcase the capability of the South African Air Force, and also it is a way for us to salute the new commander-in-chief.”