BD:Please tell us who is Sipho Mangesi?
SM: I am a Pilot by profession, I am also a Motivational Speaker, a Musician but before everything else I’m a Christian. Everything else is secondary. I grew up in a small village in the Eastern Cape called eNgqamakhwe. My family has moved to different towns during the later stages of my life journey, so East London is where we’re currently based
BD: What was your upbringing like?
SM: I come from a relatively stable family. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up with both my parents together in the same household with two younger siblings. Being the first born, I have always made it my mission to be a role model to my siblings.
BD: Have you always had an interest in aviation?
SM: For the longest time being a pilot always seemed to be a far-fetched dream because back then I never even had the opportunity to go to the airport, let alone fly in a plane. I had a dream of flying yes but my passion grew when I went to the Air Force for selection. I took it upon myself to explore the aviation industry with the little information and support I had back then so in retrospect my interest has been evolving as time goes by.
SM: This vision started in high school. I would like to think that once I was aware of what the aviation industry is like and how much responsibility it takes to become a pilot, that’s when my desire grew. I always knew that I’d be an influential man meeting celebrities and other influential people. I knew this would happen because I’d be a pilot and they would be my passengers.
BD: When you told your parents what you aspired to be, what was their reaction?
SM: My parents supported me from day one. They didn’t see the vision as clearly as I did but they definitely supported me from the very beginning. I must also mention that although the majority of the people in my community did not see my vision at all, I had a couple of friends who respected my decision and supported me until this day.
BD: How does a young boy, from the dusty gravel roads of Ngqamakhwe develop an interest in aviation?
SM: Seeing aeroplanes flying above me always fascinated me. I would always ask myself how it was possible but could not find the answer. Even back then when I was a young boy the interest was there. It’s only the information on how to become a pilot that was lacking. I am very grateful to Luzuko Mnqatu a good friend and neighbour of mine who went out of his way to get me the information I desperately needed when an Aviation expo was held at his school
BD: One might say that Ngqamakhwe is a remote area. Everything; from schools, shops, hospitals is far from the reach of the public. How has growing up in such a challenging environment shaped you into the man that you are today?
SM: I have been refined and motivated by my challenging upbringing. The values I have developed as a person are based on the humility that’s rooted in that very past. My Christian upbringing has particularly been a huge asset and everything has come together to shape me into the person I am today.
BD: You have taken your dream a step further. You are dedicated to educating high school learners about aviation. Why and how did this interest come about?
SM: It’s not so much an interest as it is a calling. I realize the privilege that I’ve grown into. I feel lucky and blessed. I feel a great sense of purpose and I believe I owe it to my society to share the useful often hard to reach information. I understand the struggle of especially people of colour in pursuing this unconventional career path. I have taken this path and because of that I feel well equipped to empower young dreamers. This is why I have made it my personal mission to go out and expose this career to the people.
SM: I go to as many schools as I possibly can. Some schools approach me and provide the platform very easily, others I make the extra effort to make the certain arrangements possible. Like I mentioned before, such information is not easily accessible in certain communities so it is the schools in those environments with which I started.
BD: For a young man or woman interested in aviation, please take us through the requirements to study aviation. Where does one go after high school and how long does it take?
SM: All the Flight schools in South Africa have a minimum requirement of proficiency in Mathematics, Physical Science and English (Home Language or First Additional Language). While in some schools it might not be a prerequisite, it’s definitely desirable to have a background in those areas of knowledge. A Commercial Pilot Licence can be completed in 3 years. However the time frame depends on one’s aptitude, finances and academic progress.
BD: Is aviation what you imagined it to be?
SM: It’s that and more! The joy of taking off, experiencing first-hand the effects of aerodynamics and the laws of physics is something I never imagined, something I cannot even explain, something only a Pilot can understand. The lifestyle and financial rewards will always be a welcome bonus.
BD: At which point did were you able to say “My dream is becoming a reality?”
SM: The very first passengers I had was my Mom and Dad. The day I took them flying was the day my dream became a reality
BD: Where are you right now in your career and where would you like to see yourself 5 years from now?
SM: Right now I am in General Aviation but, in a few months from now, I will be joining the Airlines. 5 years is a very long time, I plan on achieving all my goals before that. I know what they are, the rest of society will have to witness them unfold.
BD: Who and what inspires you
SM: Besides my parents there are 3 more great people I look up to, Fatima Jakoet (Pilot at South African Airways) Walter Mmari (Pilot at South African Airlink) and Captain Derek Nseko (Charter Pilot). These great individuals are a big inspiration in my life. It is also important to acknowledge my friends who are in different career paths and are doing extremely well in their respective disciplines. The power of association is highly influential so I get some of my inspiration from them.
BD: How would you like to be remembered?
SM: I do not get paid to go around the country motivating learners, taking them flying and teaching about careers in aviation in fact it’s an expense to me. I am hoping that one day someone will say “Captain Mangesi I have made it, I am that boy or girl from the dusty village, because of you I didn’t give up”. This for me will be the best payment. This is how I want to be remembered.