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South African Airways maiden all female crew International flight

In 84 years of its existence, South African Airways (SAA) finally made its first all female crew operated International flight between South Africa and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The flight was piloted by Captain by Jane Trembath, with co-pilots Senior First Officer Asnath Mahapa and Senior First Officer Annemari Smit.



South African Airways (SAA) commemorated women’s month by using its capable female cockpit and cabin staffers to operate an international flight from Johannesburg to São Paulo, Brazil, by an all-female crew.

According to its website SAA says women currently make up 38.96% of all staff, (24.85% general staff; 0.83% cockpit crew and 13.29% cabin crew). There are 69 female pilots in its rank of which six are captains.

At the helm of this maiden voyage was 53-year-old Captain Jane Trembath, Senior Officer Asnath Mahapa and Senior Officer Annemari Smit. Dismissing the spectacle surrounding the flight she said to the press, “This is just going to be a normal flight, we are going to operate as a crew. Just because we are all women doesn’t mean to say the operations are going to be any different. We’ve been doing it for years.”

“But we were really glad to make this statement for women.”

In a panel interview the women stressed the importance of normalizing such instances saying, “…We should see more of those occurring, it should not just be a once off. We need them to be a norm not just something that happens in August when we celebrate women.”

“We salute the role played by women of SAA in building an airline that meets world standards in terms of its safety record, on-time performance and customer service ratings.

SAA in previous years operated all-female operated flights to a domestic and regional destination, and this is the first intercontinental flight, in the 84-year-old history of the airline,” says Tlali Tlali, SAA Spokesperson.

The ground engineer, flight dispatch, ramp agent, departure controller, Operations Control Centre, and communications in-flight (ZUR) as well as the ground handlers, which all perform important functions adding to smooth operations, were also all female, according to flysaa.

Read: All-female crew operate Ethiopian Airlines’ inaugural Buenos Aires flight

Women breaking barriers

Cpt. Trembath must be bolstered by other outstanding women in the SAA group such as Senior Officer Mahapa, who became SAAs first black female pilot in 2016.  In 1998 she broke barriers by taking to the skies as the first female African pilot in South Africa.

“I didn’t know I was the first black woman until 2003, until about four years later. And I was still the only one at the time and I did not know,” she told CNN in an interview. “Before I knew it I was on TV, front page of newspapers, and that came as a shock because I was still young, I was 22 at the time, I was very young.”

Mahapa however was not content with just breaking barriers and opened the African College of Aviation to train and inspire upcoming generations.

“For me, it’s about trying to help women who aspire to become pilots,” she said. “I still see a lot of black women going through the same things that I went through at that time. They still struggle to get jobs after they qualify. Most of them they struggle with finances because it’s a very expensive industry.”

She stressed the importance of gender equity, “I don’t think there will ever be enough women in the industry. If I can change the world I would tell the girls go out there, do it and I will tell the boys there is nothing wrong with a girl becoming a pilot, becoming an astronaut for that matter.”