It is often not the norm for two African female pilots to fly a commercial plane; this however changed when two black South African Airways female pilots challenged the status quo and flew the airline’s jet together for the first time. Captain Annabel Vundla and First Officer Refilwe Moreetsi were placed in charge of the cockpit of a South African flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town. It is the first time such history has been made in the company’s 88 years of operation, airspace Africa reported.
Captain Annabel Vundla began her career in the military as South Africa’s first black female pilot and flight instructor. The concept of women flying planes was still abstract to many when she joined the military in 1999 and spent 11 years in the military with the VIP Transport squadron of the South African Air Force. During this period of her service, she was President Nelson Mandela’s pilot, according to buzz sprout. When she discharged herself from the military, she began a new career path, flying the Airbus A320 for South African Airways.
Born in 1980, she had the benefit of an early education and was enrolled at Kingsway Christian School, where she had her primary education. She then gained admission at the Mmabatho High School and studied from 1991 to 1997. She later applied to the South African National Defence Force and trained there for two years, according to women of rubies. Over her two-decade career behind the planes, she has flown the Presidential Inkwazi BBJ1 (Boeing 737-700) jet, Falcon 50, and Citation II (C550) planes. In 2010, she joined South African Airways as a pilot, becoming the national carrier’s first black female captain.
First Officer Moreetsi was recruited into the South African Air Force as a pilot in 2006. Like Captain Vundla, she also had a steady progression in her education, and went straight to Stellenbosch University after completing Merensky High School in 2005.
She earned a higher certificate in Military Studies and a Bachelor of Military Science in Aeronautics/Aviation/Aerospace Science and Technology before beginning her career behind the planes. She was trained as a Pupil Pilot with the Central Flying School in Langebaanweg and later stationed as the Limpopo/Mpumalanga Branch Coordinator for the South African Women in Aviation from 2011 to 2013.
Again, like Captain Vundla, she also felt she had not offered society enough of her flying skills. This inadequacy motivated her to enroll at the Starlight Aviation Group, where she got her Private Pilot’s License in 2010. During that same year, she took up professional training at the Helicopter Flying School, discharged herself from the South African Air Force, and joined the South African Express Airways as First Officer from 2014 to 2016.
She later moved to South African Airways in 2016, where she was employed as Senior First Officer and later promoted to Deputy Fatigue Risk Management Specialist. She was promoted to Fatigue Risk Management Specialist in June 2022.