Former firefighters undertake first solo flights
Thanks to the training and development opportunities in Working on Fire, two former fire fighters from the programme have recently taken to the skies in their first solo flights in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
Themba Maebela (27) from Mpumalanga and Siyabonga Varasha (26) from the Eastern Cape are currently undergoing training to obtain their pilots’ licenses at the Aviation Academy in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
This training forms part of Working on Fire’s vision to identify young people who can be trained to one day fly the helicopters and water bombers that are used to provide aerial support to the ground teams in fire fighting operations. Their training started on the 4 May 2015 and it will take two years to finish the course.
Should they be successful in completing the training they will first become Spotter Pilots in Working on Fire.
Siyabonga who joined WoF in 2008 and Themba who joined in 2012 as fire fighters, said that they were excited when they heard that they had been selected for the training.
“I was excited and nervous when I did my first solo flight and it felt as if my take off meant that my life would never be the same again”, said Themba. He already took to the skies in his first solo flight at the end of November 2015.
Siyabonga undertook his solo flight on the 14 January 2016 and could not hold back his emotions in thanking Working on Fire for having provided him with this lifelong ambition to become a pilot.
“It was like I was dreaming, and my family did not believe me when I told them I had taken to the skies. I am just glad that Working on Fire is providing these opportunities for us to be developed”, Siyabonga said.
Working on Fire Managing Director, Llewelyn Pillay, said shortly after Siyabonga did his solo flight that the programme is about developing the skills of young men and women in various disciplines like drivers, brush cutters, dispatchers, helicopter safety leaders and environmental education.
“The Working on Fire programme has a long testimony of former participants who have been developed and trained to move into management positions in the programme. With the continued support of the Department of Environmental Affairs we believe that we can even increase these development opportunities”, Llewellyn said.