How this SA woman started Africa’s first female aviation company after being rejected as flight attendant

SRS Aviation founder Sibongile Sambo. Photo: CNN

When South African Airways told Sibongile Sambo that she could not be a flight attendant because she did not meet the minimum height requirement, she decided to set up her own business, creating her own aviation company. She founded SRS Aviation, Africa’s first female aviation company.

Launched in 2004, SRS Aviation is also the first Black woman-owned and operated airborne services business, offering clients professional and personalized flight options to destinations around the world. Not too long after Sambo started her business in 2004, she was commissioned with her first flight for the South African government and today, she is one of Africa’s women bosses leading male-dominated industries.

But starting her own aviation business wasn’t a walk in the park. Sambo had to sell her car and use her mother’s pension money to establish her business. There were other challenges but she managed to obtain an Air Operating Certificate from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), enabling her company to operate commercial flying activities. She also partnered with MCC Aviation, an established fixed and rotor wing Air Charter service provider to provide her access to not only a fleet of aircraft but operational and technical support, she told CNN.

Today, SRS Aviation is the African distributor of new and overhauled aircraft spare parts for the commercial, commuter, corporate, Military and Cargo Aerospace Industries, the company says on its website. It adds that it offers the following services: leasing/rent, maintenance, fleet management and sales.

Through the fight for equality and the provision of human rights and privileges to women in society, African women have proven that they are a force to reckon with. In more recent times, they are leading and dominating the spaces they find themselves but only a few are the real bosses of male-dominated industries. In aviation and aerospace careers, women are generally underrepresented especially in leadership positions. Bloomberg says that among 123 listed carriers it tracked, women typically hold just 13% of executive posts. 

Sambo is working to change the status quo, thanks to her having a strategic relationship with Women of Color in Aviation & Aerospace in the United States of America and also being a member of Women in Aviation International (WAI). In 2016, CNN reported that she had helped three women get their private pilot licenses and those women were working with her company full-time.

“I’m where I am today because somebody invested in me. It’s my opportunity now to invest in other people,” said the South African aviation entrepreneur.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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