Transformation in aviation still a major challenge

Thursday, August 8, 2013
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - Transformation in the aviation industry remains a major challenge, Deputy Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said on Thursday.

While addressing delegates at the inaugural Aviation Industry Transformation Conference in Boksburg, Chikunga said where transformation is taking place, it is either slow or deliberately skewed.

“One thing is very clear to me - transformation in the aviation industry remains a major challenge. It is simply failing to address the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

“After 20 years, it is insufficient to blame skills shortage alone as a reason for the lack of transformation,” she said.

Chikunga said the challenges apportioned to this slow paced redress are many, including gate-keeping in sectors of the industry.

SA pilot statistics

Out of the 793 pilots currently employed at South African Airways (SAA), only 70 (8 percent) are female. Of the 214 pilots employed at South African Express (SAX) only (21), 10 percent are females, and 193 are men.

She said since the dawn of democracy, the national carrier has had 60 female cadets, compared to 181 male cadets, of which 48 successfully completed training, compared to 118 male cadets that also successfully completed training.

Chikunga said the vision of a balanced society could never be attained if the country’s interventions continued to entrench inequality. 

“The relative absence of women in key sectors of aviation results from a deliberate act to keep out women from the sector. Government is giving us all the broad opportunities to be champions in aviation. We do not have any excuses to fail.

“Gate-keeping practices … belong in the past. These have no place in aviation today. Equitable empowerment of women and blacks in aviation and aerospace is paramount, and we are not apologetic about it.”

Chikunga said the high cost of aviation training cannot continue to be used as an impediment for historically disadvantaged individuals (HDIs) entering the market, when there is the Transport Education and Training Authority (TETA).

“Working together with our colleagues in the Department of Public Enterprises, we will not back down from the full-scale transformation of the industry,” she said.

From an economic point of view, aviation contributes a weighty R74.3 billion or 3.1 percent to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In its 2013 forecast released last year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said global airlines were expected to post an industry profit of R12 billion this year.

SA’s aviation history

Aviation earnestly began in South Africa in 1913 when citizens were invited to join the South African Aviation Corps (SAAC) as officer-aviators.

According to the South African Power Flying Association, the Union Government did not have any training facilities so it negotiated with the Paterson Aviation Syndicate for the training of military pilots.

The school accepted 10 state-funded trainees, including three private pupils. One of the students was South Africa and Africa’s first female pilot, Ann Maria Bocciarelli, who obtained her license in 1913.

“The year 1913, therefore saw the advent of aviation in South Africa and at the same time, marked the beginning of women’s participation in the aviation industry in this country. So 2013 marks 100 years since we started flying,” Chikunga said. -

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