The death of three South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) employees, who lost their lives in a plane crash in the Western Cape, is a setback for transformation in the aviation industry, says Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
“Their loss represents a major setback in our efforts to transform the sector and open up opportunities for the previously disadvantaged and the youth. To lose a pioneering and all-African crew, who we were the first in their respective areas of expertise, is a loss to the nation,” the Minister said.
The employees lost their lives in a tragic accident when they were aboard a Civil Aviation Authority's Flight Inspections Unit aircraft on 23 January 2020. The aircraft crashed shortly after take-off from George Airport in the Western Cape.
The Minister on Thursday attended the memorial service of the SACAA employees.
“While we mourn their passing, we must equally celebrate their lives. As we celebrate their great achievements as trailblazers, we must find inspiration in the knowledge that they were head and shoulders above their peers,” Mbalula said.
Captain Thabiso Tolo qualified in 2013 as captain of this crew and had 4 959 hours of flying to his credit. Among others, he was the first black Captain of the Flight Inspection Unit.
He started working as a pilot at the South African Air Force between 1989 and 2003.
First Officer Tebogo Lekalakala had 1 050 hours of flying to her credit. She performed her last training as Flight Safety Simulator in San Antonio in the United States.
Lekalakala was a co-pilot and the first black woman to fly for the Flight Inspection Unit in 2019. Before joining the SACAA, she was an Air Force pilot between 2006 and 2018.
Gugu Comfort Mnguni, a flight inspector, had over 1 300 flying hours to his credit. He conducted his last training at the Global Navigation Satellite System for Aviation, Eurocontrol, in Luxembourg.
He was trained in the Flight Inspection System at the CARNAC 30 in France. He became the first black Flight Inspector for the Flight Inspection Unit in 2013.
“On behalf of government, I convey our heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased and loved ones. We are with you during this trying time. Thabiso, Tebogo and Gugu have run their race, and we must find comfort in the legacy they have left for future generations,” the Minister said. – SAnews.gov.za