Long distance flyer meets the SAAF’s first black woman helicopter pilot


Intrepid aviatrix Tracey Curtis-Taylor was able to tick off one of her wish list items when she landed at Port Elizabeth over the weekend and met the first black woman helicopter pilot in the SA Air Force.

BK-117 pilot Captain Phetogo Molawe is a member of 15 Squadron C Flight. defenceWeb assisted in facilitating the meeting between Curtis-Taylor and the woman who earned her wings at AFB Langebaanweg in 2007 before moving to the helicopter line.
“It was an honour to meet Tracey and even though there were many other people who also wanted to spend time with her during her brief stopover in Port Elizabeth it was an occasion I will not forget,” the 27-year-old said.

Molawe said Curtis-Taylor was “curious” about helicopters and asked a number of questions which “I answered to the best of my ability”.
“She also wanted to know about my air force career and told me to be proud of what I had achieved and to continue the good work.”

Since her delayed first take-off in Africa, from Cape Town International on Saturday, en route to Goodwood, England, Curtis-Taylor and her Boeing Stearman have landed at Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban’s Virginia airport, Pietermaritzburg, Ladysmith, Baragwanath (Johannesburg Light Plane Club) and Lanseria. She left Lanseria earlier today en route to Botswana.

Her more than 7 000 mile flight in the vintage Boeing trainer will take her to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Italy and France before final touchdown at Goodwood in England.

One of Curtis-Taylor’s major sponsors of the epic flight in the footsteps of Mary Heath, the first woman to hold a commercial flying licence in the United Kingdom and the first pilot to do the South Africa/England flight in 1928, is United States aircraft manufacturing giant, Boeing.

The Seattle-based company will provide support, along with co-sponsors Artemis and Execujet, for the entire flight of the open cockpit biplane.
“We hope this journey inspires people along the route to learn more about the remarkable history of aviation and the role Boeing has played in the past, as well as the important role we play in African aviation today,” Boeing Military Aircraft President Chris Chadwick said in Cape Town.

More than 8 500 Stearmans were built in the US during the 1930s and 1940s. The aircraft was the primary trainer for the US Air Force and Navy during World War II.