I have always had an interest in aviation since as far as I can remember. I just thought, what better job could you get? When I was a child, it was my life’s greatest ambition to be a helicopter pilot. I still have very vivid memories of my father taking me to all the annual local air shows. I met a well-known helicopter pilot at one of these events and he gave me some advice that (positively) changed the trajectory of my career. He had flown both fixed wing and helicopters in his career. He suggested that I should follow the fixed wing route as it was and is more cost effective and that once I have made some money and gained experience, I could switch over to helicopters if that were something I still really wanted.
Military was not an option for me in my country so I would have to take the civilian route although I knew it was a very costly venture. I do not come from a very wealthy family, and I knew that if I wanted to continue with my life’s calling, I was pretty much on my own. It was a tough road ahead of me, but I was motivated and dedicated. I got a job in a restaurant as a waiter in my hometown and started working as much as possible, saving as much as I possibly could. After completing my PPL part time at my local air school, I got a job on the weekends at the school running operations. The job involved things such as answering the telephone, fuelling the planes, and showing new students around. They paid me in free hours on their planes. This job didn’t last very long as they ended up having to replace me with another guy on a programme that benefitted them in a greater way.
I was disappointed as it was a great way for me to get more of the required hours for my CPL. On my last day, I met a guy that had just refuelled his gyrocopter who gave me his number and told me that he needed to speak to me about an opportunity. He got in his gyro and off he went. Long story short, he was the owner of the local skydiving club and he offered me a position as Assistant Operations Manager with the promise of doing the ferry flights on the C206. Once I had completed my CPL, I could do the jump flights.
My days consisted of a 9-3 job at the skydiving club and then by 4pm I was in the restaurant (which I was now managing) until about 10pm. Somehow, I found the time to study and complete my CPL exams and even have a little bit of a social life. After 3 years, I eventually passed my CPL check-ride and started doing some jump flights on the C206 and consequently building up some good hours.
I did not get paid to fly the jump flights which a lot of people frowned upon, but I was having the best time of my life. Meeting people from all over the world, building up my hours and flying up and down all day. It was so much fun, and my office was filled with great, daily views of Cape Town! I think I had only been flying for about 6 months after being promoted when I got a call from a previous pilot and friend that had worked at the same skydiving club. He called to say his company in Malawi urgently needed a pilot and wanted to find out if I was interested. My first paying job as a pilot! I was in Malawi within two weeks and so the adventure began!