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Hard work earned pilot his wings

Written by Hlengiwe Ngobese

Determination proved to be the secret ingredient in the success of Zondo.

Bahle Zondo’s passion for flying propelled him to great heights.

From a young age, Zondo knew that he was born to fly. High flying pilot worked hard to earn his wings.

The 38-year-old was born into a less privileged household in rural uMsinga. He dropped out of school in Grade 11 and made his way to Johannesburg to find employment. 

The move proved to be a positive one and he managed to complete his matric within two years, attending school after hours, while working days in a factory.

Today, Zondo is still based in Johannesburg but his life is very different to when he first arrived in the city.  

As the proud owner of four helicopters, he is flying high! 

After matriculating, Zondo secured a better position at an insurance company.

“While l was working there, l met a guy who insured an aircraft,” said Zondo.

This encounter was to change his destiny.

One day, the man took Zondo with him to test an aeroplane. “When l saw him operating the machine, it became clear this was what I wanted to do,” he said.

After two years of saving, he enrolled at Midrand’s Grand Central Airport for training and obtained a student pilot's licence which allowed him to fly under the supervision of an instructor. 

Soon, he achieved his private pilot's licence which allowed him to fly private aircraft, and then his commercial pilot licence.

“Getting a licence is not easy because you have to attend theoretical classes and do practical training. To qualify for each licence, you have to finish your stipulated flying hours which is expensive because you pay per hour,” he explained.
“A medical assessment also has to be passed and every three months, you have to fly with an instructor to determine if you are still doing things by the book,” he said.
Before branching out on his own, Zondo worked for British Airways in Amsterdam.

Today he owns and pilots his own helicopters, which are available for a variety of jobs.

“I have a helicopter working in Sudan this month, helping to track stolen cars. People also hire me if they have functions such as weddings,” he said.

Zondo said youngsters who want to enter the aviation sector must work hard and obtain good results, especially in maths, science and geography.