Major Nandi Zama Becomes 1st Black Woman to Command C-130 Military Cargo Plane

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Major Nandi Zama has just flown into the history books by becoming the first black woman commander (the equivalent of a civilian captain) to fly the C-130 military cargo plane. And she’s only 31.

According to the Sowetan Live, Nandi made her maiden journey on Friday 24 March 2017 when she flew the C-130 from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Waterkloof Air Force base in Gauteng, South Africa.

The South African-born pilot and major said in an interview four years ago (watch below) that she had joined the military in 2004 straight from high school, and then “there was a year of military training”, followed by aerodynamics. In 2006 she received her wings after attending central flying school, and in 2007 she was transferred to 41 Squadron.

She is now in 28 Squadron.

Lieutenant Colonel Ntsikelelo Mantshongo, SA National Defence Force spokesperson, said Nandi’s history-making command of the four-engine military plane C-130 came with major responsibility.

He said: “If there’s a mission and she needs to take the aircraft‚ she needs to assemble a team that includes specialists on board. The plane can take up to 160 people.” 

Nandi has already been flying the aircraft for four years, but this was her first time as commander!

She described the experience as something that can’t be explained in words. “You just have to be there to experience it,” she said.

Back in 2013, Nandi – who has infectious energy and passion for her craft – said she found working in the Air Force to be a very engaging, challenging job, but always with “challenges that are enjoyable to try and meet… and obtain those goals”. It seems no goal is out of reach for Nandi!