Africa got its first female pilot in 1964 but the great achievement was not enough to encourage other women to get into aviation. Over the years, women were only training as flight attendants which seemed to be the most attractive work for them within the aviation sector. Piloting was left for men until women started gaining an interest in the field to create diversity and have their dreams come true.
Mopelola, Oluwaseun, and Oluwafunmilayo Makinde are three Nigerian sisters who have broken gender barriers to pursue careers in aviation. Their father, a veteran helicopter pilot known as Captain Wale Makinde, inspired them to become pilots. Captain Makinde, who is with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, told interesting stories about his work to his children while they were growing up.
Mopelola Makinde, who is the eldest of the three, heard her father’s stories of “flying helicopters to remote and challenging terrains”, and as she grew up, she realized that she wanted to be a pilot too, blackwallst.media reported.
With help from her family, she beat all odds and earned her pilot’s license, and today she is a helicopter pilot. Oluwaseun Makinde, who is the middle sister, also watched as her father showed commitment to his work, influencing her to toe his path. People raised eyebrows about her decision to enter a male-dominated industry but she was unperturbed and currently, she is also a helicopter pilot inspiring her community and beyond.
Oluwafunmilayo Makinde, the youngest of the three sisters, decided to go in another direction although in the same field. She chose to study towards becoming a fixed-wing pilot while her sisters opted to be with helicopters. Oluwafunmilayo Makinde told Alpha Bravo TV that she admired planes growing up.
“I loved planes. I always remember seeing myself when I was younger, I would run out of the house when I hear a plane is going out. I just wanted to stare at a plane…It was so beautiful to behold.”
At that moment, she said she didn’t know if she wanted to be a pilot or a passenger until her mother asked her one day if she wanted to fly planes. That inspired her career decision as a fixed-wing pilot.
Curiously, all three Nigerian sisters are married and have been able to balance their careers with their personal lives in spite of how demanding their profession is, blackwallst.media wrote.
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 recent times, they are leading and dominating the spaces they find themselves, with an increasing number of them becoming real bosses of male-dominated industries like aviation.
Africa today has the highest percentage of women pilots, at 5.2% — a significant increase from 4.1% in 2016, per the latest global survey conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The Makinde sisters are urging their fellow women to work harder to achieve their dreams.