Five-year-old Mandisa Nomcebo Mfeka would sit outside of the airport accompanied by her mother and grandmother to watch the airshows at Virginia Airport. According to Good Things Guy, Mandisa’s mother was unable to afford admissions tickets, so she opted to park their car outside the gates and enjoy the show from afar. It was those airshows that sparked Mandisa’s passion for aviation and ultimately led her to become the world’s first Black woman combat pilot from South Africa.
When she entered the tenth grade, Mandisa began researching science and math vocations and soon discovered aeronautical engineering. During her quest to apply to university, Mandisa stumbled upon an article about the South African Air Force (SAAF) and it immediately caught her interest.
“It wasn’t until I was 16 that I discovered the Air Force, and I was like ‘Oh my God, this girl can become a pilot,’” Major Mandisa told the Afternoon Express.
According to Good Things Guy, Major Mandisa joined the SAAF in 2008 and earned her wings in 2011.
“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.
As a combat pilot, Mandisa describes her mentality when flying in three words: execution, precision, and excellence.
Major Mandisa is the epitome of Black excellence and joins a list of fellow Black women pilot history makers including Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license in the U.S., Janet Bragg, the first African American woman to hold a commercial piloting license, and Refilwe Ledwaba, the first Black South African woman Police Service pilot.
Salute to Major Mandisa Nomcebo Mfeka, for her expertise, bravery, and courage. Thank you for not only inspiring Black women and Black girls, but for inspiring us all.