Air Namibia celebrates women in aviation

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8 under the theme #PressforProgress, Air Namibia congratulates Elina Nependa, Iria Sheehama and Foonie Kazarako on their achievement as Air Namibia’s first ever female aircraft engineers for the Embraer Jet (ERJ) fleet. The trio joined Air Namibia some six months ago, overcoming major challenges and perceived misconceptions by joining a male dominated industry.

Nependa is an aircraft maintenance engineer (planner) and holds a diploma in electrical engineering from Bulawayo Technical School in Zimbabwe and an aircraft maintenance aviation certification from Transport Education Training Authority (TETA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. While Sheehama and Kazarako are aircraft engineers (mechanical) and have aircraft maintenance aviation certification from Transport Education Training Authority (TETA) in Johannesburg.

Air Namibia has in recent years seen a rise in women joining the airline, from management to the flight crew and now in the maintenance department. The dream of the three women to join the sector was enabled by the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) through the Ministry of Works and Transport. This institution financially supported the trio to pursue their studies in the aviation sector.

All three women are proudly Namibian and from previously disadvantaged groups. When asked about obstacles they face every day, Nependa said: “Although there are big challenges, we are always eager to solve them amicably. Through hard work and determination, we are able to find the source of challenges and overcome them as a team.”
Common qualities seen in the three engineers are that they are team players, have problem solving, and possess good technical, skills. They all became aircraft engineers for similar reasons.

First and foremost, they love planes, using their talents and being respected for them. What they found to be the icing on the cake was the feeling of belonging to this strong family called aviation.

The aircraft engineer’s job is to make sure that the aircraft remains airworthy without compromising safety. “When the aircraft lands and all the passengers have disembarked, we take the TL3B (defect log book) to check if the pilot or cabin attendant logged anything that is in-operation (in-op) and we fix it before the flight is cleared for departure again. If there are no issues, we do visual checks in and out of the aircraft to make sure there is nothing out of the ordinary. When maintenance needs to be done, it is done within a specified period of time without causing any delay to the normal operation of the aircraft,” Sheehama and Kazarako explained.

The trio called on more women not to be deterred and not let stereotypes stop them. They further encouraged more women to apply for aviation studies. “If one has a passion, pursue it. Self-confidence, hard work and the will to learn will take you there. They should also have a passion for aviation, keen interest in problem solving and be ready to go the extra mile.”

The female engineers concluded by saying: “Aviation is a very interesting industry – every day you turn to see Air Namibia aircraft in the sky, you are proud to say, ‘I worked on that aircraft, or I put that aircraft in the sky.’”
Air Namibia encourages women to join aviation technical fields and embrace their capabilities. “Make a choice today and press for progress. Let us all join women across the globe as they press for progress and celebrate their achievements, while breaking down barriers of inequality,” the company says.

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