Air-Botswana-Boss-Lady

Sakhile Nyoni Air Botswana CEO First Female to Achieve such a position in Botswana

A Zimbabwean has scored a first by becoming the first woman to head Botswana’s national airline, Air Botswana.

Sakhile Nyoni also broke new ground when she became the airline’s first female pilot way back in 1988.
“I am humbled by the fact that the government through the board that appointed me gave me the opportunity to be the General Manager of Air Botswana. I am also happy that once again I made history in the aviation industry of Botswana. There are challenges here and there but I believe challenges are part of the solutions.
Though still early to talk about the positive things that have happened ever since my appointment there are pointers to show that we are moving in the right direction,” she said in an interview with The Voice.
She added : “I was the fi rst female pilot of Air Botswana and one of the very few experienced women in the aviation industry of Africa. It’s always nice to make history and I hope I have and will continue to inspire young women to take up this noble profession so that we can increase in numbers.
“I think that at the moment there are few women pilots in Africa and the world over because of the perception that it’s a tough job which needs masculinity, which is not the case. Anyone can succeed in this career as long as they work hard and are determined to make it.”
Nyoni was born in Bulawayo and moved to Botswana when she was very young. She said she always loved flying.
“I don’t think there is anyone or anything that inspired me to be a pilot but the love for aeroplanes came from the fact I grew up watching them shortly after take off and just before landing as we used to stay near the airport village where I grew up. I found them (planes) intriguing and as I grew older
I started reading about aviation and planes but it was just out of interest and nothing else.
The interest grew further after my first fl ight when I was 16 because it was just exciting to be up in the air. But I guess as fate would have it, I ended up pursuing a career as a pilot.”
Nyoni said although she was now the boss she still took to the skies.
“I have to keep my licence valid and the only way to do that is to fl y regularly which I did recently. I may not fly quite often but now and again I will be doing that. And besides I still have a dream to fly a long flight, like from Africa to Europe or any other continent so my days of being a pilot are not over yet.”

It was way back in 1988 when Sakhile Nyoni broke new grounds to become the first female pilot for Air Botswana.

Fast forward to June, 2011 and Nyoni-Reiling, once again scores another first by becoming the first woman to be the General Manager of the national airliner. With more than 20 years experience in the aviation industry, she is one of the few highly qualified female pilots in the continent and has once been at the helm of the aviation industry in South Africa.

But, it is not what she has achieved so far that Nyoni-Reiling would want to be remembered for but what she will achieve as the boss lady of Air Botswana.
Q. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, an aunt and a friend.
Nothing makes me feel happy than playing all these roles and being around my family. I was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and moved here with my parents when I was five years of age.
Botswana is my home now, the country that I love and serve with pride and dignity.
Q. Before we talk about Sakhile the GM of Air Botswana , let’s talk about Sakhile the pilot, what or who inspired you to choose this profession?
I don’t think there is anyone or anything that inspired me to be a pilot but the love for aeroplanes came from the fact I grew up watching them shortly after takeoff and just before landing as we used to stay near the airport village where I grew up. I found them (planes) intriguing and as I grew older
I started reading about aviation and planes but it was just out of interest and nothing else.
The interest grew further after my first fl ight when I was 16 because it was just exciting to be up in the air. But I guess as fate would have it, I ended up pursuing a career as a pilot.
Q. What do you love most about being a pilot and why do you think there are a few women in the skies?
I love the good feeling that comes after a successful fl ight.
Being a pilot is one of those jobs considered to be very tough and passing the tests, getting a licence and fl ying a plane is one of the most fulfi lling things.
It just takes one over the moon. And one of the greatest things that makes me love my job is the fact I was the fi rst female pilot of Air Botswana and one of the very few experienced women in the aviation industry of Africa. It’s always nice to make history and I hope I have and will continue to inspire young women to take up this noble profession so that we can increase in numbers.
I think that at the moment there are few women pilots in Africa and the world over because of the perception that it’s a tough job which needs masculinity, which is not the case. Anyone can succeed in this career as long as they work hard and are determined to make it.
Q. What has been the highlight of your career?
The first time I flew an aircraft as a student, I remember that the only thing I could say was wow! because the experience left me speechless. The other defi ning moment was when I flew a plane as a captain. I was thrilled to say the least, I felt so proud of myself and I think I cried tears of joy on that day.
Q. And the lowest?
It must be some years back on the day I saw a plane crash. It made me see the realities and the dangers that come with being a pilot and that at times there is little that one can do to prevent such things from happening.
Q. You are currently on the management side of aviation in Botswana, does this mean your days of piloting are over?
I have to keep my licence valid and the only way to do that is to fl y regularly which I did recently. I may not fly quite often but now and again I will be doing that. And besides I still have a dream to fly a long flight, like from Africa to Europe or any other continent so my days of being a pilot are not over yet.
Q. Being a pilot and working in the aviation industry in general must be very demanding. How do you strike a balance between your career and your role as a mother and wife?
I have a very supportive family which understands the nature of my job. The other good thing is that my son is now grown up and at university. I am not staying with him and my husband at the moment as they remained in South Africa but we are always together over the weekends.
Its either I go there or they come over and I must add that the time we spend away from each other has made our bond even stronger because when we are together we spend quality time together.
Q. Now let’s talk about you as the GM of Air Botswana. How does it feel to be the fi rst female to head the country’s national airline?
I am humbled by the fact that the government through the board that appointed me gave me the opportunity to be the General Manager of Air Botswana. I am also happy that once again I made history in the aviation industry of Botswana. There are challenges here and there but I believe challenges are part of the solutions.
Though still early to talk about the positive things that have happened ever since my appointment there are pointers to show that we are moving in the right direction.
Q. You are not new to Air Botswana as you once worked there before going to South Africa, what were your reasons for leaving then?
I clashed with the management of that time over certain issues and hence could not continue working as the environment was no longer conducive. Although I moved to SA and held high positions in the aviation industry of that country, my heart remained in Botswana. That is why I did not think twice about taking up the offer to be the GM.
Q. Air Botswana is normally in the press for wrong reasons, loss making, failed take offs and something not working in one of the airports.
What are you doing to make sure that these become things of the past?
We have strategies in place like re-training all our staff to ensure good customer service so that we can become an airliner of choice. We want to create an environment that will make people love working for the airliner because that will translate to increased productivity. It might take time to turn around the fortunes of Air Botswana but eventually we will do that.
Q. One of the issues normally raised about Air Botswana is that it is expensive especially to fly locally, your comment on that?
People need to understand that as a business we need to make a profit or at least break even. No airliner or any business for that matter should operate at a loss.
And besides our fares are not at all expensive, they are very competitive in comparison to other airlines in the region.
The fare that we charge does not mean all the money go to the coffers of Air Botswana, there are taxes, airport and civil aviation charges that we pay so that we can continue operating otherwise if we reduce our fares we will eventually fail to operate and run into further losses.
Q. Lastly, what legacy do you want to leave behind as the fi rst female GM when you finally say goodbye to the airliner?
Profit making airliner, which is compliant with all aviation standards and recognised internationally.
I also want to leave Sir Seretse Khama Airport as one of the biggest airports in the region with international flights fl ying direct to Botswana.
FULL NAMES: Sakhile Nyoni-Reiling
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
MARITAL STATUS: Married with one son
CAR DRIVING: Pajero (company car)
HOLIDAY DESTINATION: Austria
FAVOURITE FOOD: Seafood
PASTIME: Gardening, reading and photography
HOW SHE KEEPS FIT: Running and walking long distances
SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: Being around positive people

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