With the support of the family, Naisoi took a flight to South Africa in search of a suitable training academy in 2013, soon after her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results were out. KURGAT MARINDANY reports
Maria Naisoi walked out of Lema Girls High School, Machakos County, in 2012 with a fixed mind that she wanted to be a pilot.
At school, she played football for her side when she was not running.
She liked things that moved with speed, and she is not even sure of the link between football and high-flying planes.
She cuts an image of a military woman, fairly tall, and possesses the eyes of those super cops we see in James Bond movies.
Naisoi, who claims she is the only aviator in the family, says she gained interest in aeroplanes when she was 10 years.
“My father was travelling to Dubai at the time, and I was among family members who escorted him to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to board a flight,” says Naisoi.
She went on: “I have a passion for flying planes. It is a passion built in me.”
With the support of the family, Naisoi took a flight to South Africa in search of a suitable training academy in 2013, soon after her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results were out.
She enlisted at the prestigious South African Flight Training Academy (SAFTA), which is located in Gauteng.
Established in 2007, the academy has remained South Africa’s leading Aviation Training Organization (ATO) and Type Rating Training Organization (TRTO).
The academy opened its doors in 2007 when aviation enthusiasts identified the need for a professional pilot training academy where students from around the world could train and share their interests.
South Africa is cited among the top 10 destinations for flight training worldwide. The aviation network in South Africa is mature and continues to improve with the determination and aid of the South African Civil Aviation Authority.
SAFTA is based in the rural town of Heidelberg, Gauteng, a mere 40km from Johannesburg. The area is well known for its great “non-weather” winter in the Highveld and a strong history of piloting in the country.
Naisoi enlisted at the college in the fall of September for an eight-month course on Private Pilot Licence. Owing to financial difficulties, she came back home after the course.
On her return, Naisoi, with her mind still fixed on aviation, joined the East African School of Aviation in Nairobi. This time around, she took a course in cabin crew, which she says is also inspiring.
“I am not done with training as a pilot yet but decided to take up the cabin crew course first as I wait for finances to come my way. This is equally an interesting venture,” she said in an interview.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Naisoi is now taking daily online classes from her home in Isinya and hopes to complete her course.
Her examinations are supervised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which supports aviation with global standards for airline safety, security, efficiency, and sustainability.
Cabin crews are the staff in the air transport industry who serve passengers on the flight and are charged with evacuating them during emergencies.
“We put our lives on the line in this profession. None of us will leave the plane first in case of emergencies. We must ensure the safety of the passengers before we think of our own,” says Naisoi.
When we asked Naisoi to take us through what is required for one to train as a pilot, she just stated it in one sentence.
“You got to be fluent in English, mentally super with the best of eyesight. The rest are just stories,” she concluded.
But she was quick to point at the financial implications. It costs some Ksh5 million to acquire all the compulsory licences.
How to become a pilot
Here are the steps you take to become a pilot:
Research pilot schools
The first step to becoming a private or commercial pilot is to research your flight training options. Learn and compare available programmes offered by flight schools and pick the best match for your aviation goals.
Take an introductory training flight
Completing an introductory training flight is required before enrolling in a pilot training programme. This flight lesson will help you see first-hand the training, aircraft, and quality of instruction a flight school will offer you. It is also a great way to get a better sense of what it is like to fly from behind the controls.
Apply for FAA medical certificate
Pilots must meet basic medical requirements to fly. If you want to fly professionally, you must meet higher medical standards than recreational pilots and should apply for a first-class medical certificate through an Aeromedical Examiner (AME).
Apply for FAA Student Pilot Certificate
Apply for a student pilot certificate through the FAA Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website (your flight instructor can help with this). While you don’t need a student pilot certificate to start flying lessons, you will need it to fly solo during your training.
Start flight training lessons
Start taking flight training lessons and begin working towards obtaining the aeronautical knowledge and pilot training experience requirements needed to become a private pilot.
Pass Private Pilot Knowledge Test
During your private pilot flight training, you will need to take and pass the
computer-based FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test. To be eligible for the test, you must receive an endorsement from your flight instructor.
Pass Private Pilot Practical Exam
The final step in earning your FAA private pilot certificate is to take a practical exam with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). This exam consists of both an oral and a flight portion, and once completed you will be a private pilot.