How a former Zimbabwean teen mom went from flight attendant to commercial airline pilot

Abu Mubarik June 07, 2022
Precious Sibalo. Photo credit: VOA

Precious Sibalo is a Zimbabwean airline pilot who started as a waitress and a flight attendant. Sibalo grew up in a high population density suburb in Zimbabwe where she nurtured her dream of becoming a pilot after a school trip to an airport. She noticed there was no female pilot at the Bulawayo airport she visited and this fueled her desire to be a pioneer pilot.

“… I saw male pilots and never saw a woman there. I said to myself ‘I want to be one of those few women who are pilots,” Voazimbabwe quoted her as saying.

Like her mother, Sibalo moved to South Africa in search of greener pastures. She worked as a waitress and won many hearts because of her excellence and some even suggested to her to try modeling.

She subsequently moved to Dubai and applied for a job at Qatar Airways. She was chosen for a job as an air hostess at the airline. At Qatar Airways, Sibalo knew her current job was just a stone’s throw away from her childhood dream job.

And to materialize her dream, she began saving to become a pilot. 

“With the help of my friends and family I managed to save money to become a pilot and when that was done, I approached Qatar Airways and spoke to them about my dream and they encouraged me and recommended that I go to 43 Air School in South Africa in the Eastern Cape,” she told Voazimbabwe.

After five years at Qatar Airways, it was time for Sibalo to leave for school to study piloting. Her first entry examination did not go well for her. She admitted she did not prepare well for the exams.

“So, I got there, zero knowledge … You know, the worst part is that I used to see pilots when I was a cabin crew member just drinking coffee, doing nothing. I took it lightly joining as a student pilot. ‘I said they are always sitting and drinking coffee and so it might be easy. The truth is it is not easy, the examinations are tough.

“I failed dismally the compass test and I was told people who have these marks normally don’t make it to the end, people who also do not have mathematics, physics normally do not make it.”

After weeks of sleepless nights, she eventually passed her exams and went on to obtain the highest pilot certification in South Africa. She holds an Airline Transport Pilot License, the world’s highest level of Aircraft Pilot License from 43 Air School in South Africa.

Besides the entry examination setback, Sibalo faced a major career setback in her teen years. She gave birth at the age of 17, like her mother. And this nearly distracted her goal of becoming a pilot as she had to put her dreams on hold for a while.

Nonetheless, Sibalo defied all odds to get to the zenith of her career in the aviation industry. 

She is now building hours in South Africa and is hoping to work for Qatar Airways again, but this time as a pilot.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 8, 2022


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