There are some 200 Ugandan pilots flying across Africa and the world. Most of them were trained at home, at the East African Civil Aviation Academy, also known as Soroti Flying School.
The school started in 1971 under a United Nations Development Program – UNDP training program for pilots from the East African community. Back then, all the trainees were men.
But attitudes towards flying in Uganda are changing today, as 10 out of 70 flight class students in Soroti are young women.
“Long time ago it used to be only boys coming to flying school, ladies were not looked at as if they were competent enough or capable of flying aeroplanes,” said Chris Sentabile, Chief Pilot of the East African Civil Aviation Academy.
He acknowledges the change in trend saying “with affirmative action in, we have found ladies capable of flying aeroplanes. So far the number has increased, we used to have none, then we got two now we are having ten in flying school out of the 70 pilots we have, so there is a sense of now women being capable of flying aeroplanes”.
Sentabile who has 22-years flying experience told Africanews the female students are showing much promise and expects them to do even better “once she gets determined and works hard” adding that some of the females “are even better than boys although they are fewer”.
Together with their male counterparts, the female students are willing to go through the challenges to attain a commercial pilot’s license that requires logging of at least 200 hours flight time.
But achieving that is a struggle, as sometimes there is not enough fuel to carry out practical sessions, or the students are unable to afford the tuition fees in time.
Angela Amiro one of the ten female students in the aviation academy has some 50 hours of flight time left to finish her training.
She must work as hard as the men in the industry which she says does not consider one’s gender.
“In the aviation industry, it’s a little bit different unlike the other industries. There is not much of advantages” said Amiro.
“You need to have the qualifications that a guy would have, you understand. You need to have Physics, Maths, you need to be healthy, you need to be fit, there is nothing like she is a lady, so we should give her priority or anything because, it’s different, we are dealing with weather and what a guy can do you should be able to do,” Amiro added.
The Soroti Flying School ranks among the best in the region. It is therefore no surprise that students are expected to pay as much as $18,000 for the two-year course, while non-Ugandans are expected to pay at least twice the amount.
The license given here is internationally recognized and should be enough to jump-start the careers of the young aviators.
There are still few pilots in Uganda and reportedly even the world in spite of the increasing demand for pilots.
With this knowledge, the students at Soroti are targeting not only the chartered aviation companies in Uganda but companies around East Africa and beyond.
This article first appeared on wwwafricanews.com