FOR 22 year-old Kabwe Musonda, making it as a qualified commercial pilot is not about holding a job in a prestigious profession at a tender age but proof to the world that what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve.
Flying a plane had always been a childhood dream for Kabwe, who lost his father when he was just two-years old.
He recalls how his friends in high school at Chasa Secondary School in Sinda district, Eastern province of Zambia, teased him each time he talked of being a pilot.
“We all knew that being a pilot was a prestigious career and my friends would laugh at me when I told them that I would one day become a pilot.
“ They would say that chances are that out of a thousand people, only one would become a pilot and I remember responding that that one person would then be me,” a beaming Kabwe said on his graduation day at Blue Chip Flight School in Pretoria on 19th September, 2014.
With a humble background and with just his mother to support him, Kabwe decided to set off on his journey of attaining his long-held dream soon after completing his secondary school education and enrolled at the Zambia Air Services Training Institute (ZASTI) in Lusaka in 2010.
He did not stay long at ZASTI as he withdrew and looked elsewhere from where he could continue pursuing his dream. The following year, Kabwe managed to find a place at Blue Chip Flight School and after just six months, he got his first flying license – Private Pilot License.
“But then I couldn’t easily get a job with this kind of qualification as I could only fly small planes of maximum four-seater.
“ I thought through this and decided that I needed to upgrade my qualifications and the next thing was to go for Commercial Pilot License training.”
Frustration soon set in for Kabwe as he could not right away move on to further his career due to financial challenges in the family.
He did not give up but looked beyond the challenges and decided to engage in some piece work to raise some money. He then found a job with Royal Air Charters where he worked as a flight attendant from June 2012 to August 2013.
He also approached one of the owners of the training school, Mr. Hennie Coetzee to help him with transport from his boarding house to the school, and some other financial assistance.
“This was not coming to me free. And I didn’t want to get free money because life has taught me that no one will give you free things.
So I had to agree with Mr. Coetzee that I do some work in exchange for the help he was going to render. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would refuel and park the planes that students used for training.”
Even with the financial challenges, indeed Kabwe had not taken his eyes off his dream as soon after raising some money from his piece work, in September 2013, he was back in the cockpit flying away his dream again. This time, his eyes fixed on the big one- Commercial Pilot Licence.
“Commercial Pilot Licence training takes much longer but with my determination, I managed to finish it in exceptional time. It rarely happens that one finishes in less than 12 months,” Kabwe says.
With his Commercial Pilot Licence and a total of 244 hours of flight time, Kabwe can now venture into flying bigger planes with sitting capacity of up to 19.
His exceptional dedication and performance on training put him among the few that were rewarded during his course.
Kabwe received the ‘Airmanship Award’ for 2011 /2012 which is given out in recognition of one for being a dedicated and cautious pilot.
Kabwe’s mother, Mrs. Mutinta Lubinga-Musonda, who flew in from Zambia to witness her son’s graduation, said she could not believe it when she got a call a week earlier that her son was ripe for decoration as a commercial pilot.
She recalls how her son talked of flying planes from childhood noting that it was now a joyous moment for the family that this has come to pass.
One of Kabwe’s Commercial Pilot instructor, Mr. Hansie Fourie, points out that one of the factors that make Kabwe unique was the fact that he earned his own money to achieve the qualification.
A full course taken without any interruptions would take about two years and cost between 300, 000 and 350, 000 rand.
Mr. Fourie explained that a Commercial Pilot qualification involves instrument flying which is the control of the aircraft with the sole reference to instruments on the plane. One can fly in or above the clouds without need for reference to the ground.
Kabwe was decorated with three stripes on each of his shoulders and golden wings on his breast pocket at the graduation ceremony.
What is even more exciting for the 22-year old is that he already has a job with Royal Air Charters whom he worked for as a flight attendant when he was on his mission to raise money for the training programme.
First Secretary for Education, Mrs. Emerentiana Bweupe, represented the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria.
Mrs. Bweupe said it was inspiring to see the determination and focus exhibited by Kabwe to achieve what he wanted despite the challenges he went through.
She urged other young people to emulate Kabwe’s approach to life if they were to attain their goals.
This is contained in a statement Issued by first Secretary for Press at the High Commission of Zambia in South Africa , Nicky Shabolyo.