News / Africa

Ghana’s Female Pilots Are Ready for Takeoff

Ghana's first licensed female pilot is working to train more women to fly and maintain light aircraft. (File: Mary Saner/VOA)Ghana's first licensed female pilot is working to train more women to fly and maintain light aircraft. (File: Mary Saner/VOA)
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Ghana's first licensed female pilot is working to train more women to fly and maintain light aircraft. (File: Mary Saner/VOA)
Ghana's first licensed female pilot is working to train more women to fly and maintain light aircraft. (File: Mary Saner/VOA)
Ricci Shryock
Patricia Mawuli was nineteen years old and had just finished high school when she saw an airplane for the first time.

As she was collecting wood in a field outside of her uncle’s house in a rural area of Ghana, Mawuli heard loud noises that she said scared her at first.

“I saw these airplanes flying overhead, but because I was very close to the airfields, I thought the airplanes were chasing me,” she recalled years later.

But Mawuli said her fear did not last long. Before long, she started “to chase them -- to see what they were up to.”

I told them I could prove them wrong, because women can do things, and even do it much better than men sometimes.”

She followed the airplanes to find out where they were landing.  And once she arrived, she asked what she could do to work near the planes.

They told her she could clear wood from the area. She gladly accepted – but all along her sights were set higher.

“They didn’t have any plans for training girls,” she said.  “Well I told them I could prove them wrong, because women can do things and even do it much better than men sometimes.”

Eventually, Jonathan Porter, an engineer and pilot at the airfield, trained and taught Mawuli to fly. Two years ago, on her 21st birthday, she became the country’s first licensed woman pilot – and that only marked the beginning of her journey.

Mawuli then helped found the AvTech Academy, short for the Aviation and Technology Academy Ghana, which trains young women how to fly, build and maintain light aircraft.

People forget,” she said “it’s only two percent of the world’s aircraft that are airliners,” she said. “The rest of the 98 percent are private planes and ultralights.” That means, Mawuli explained, there are real opportunities in the aviation industry for the young women taught at AvTech.

This is the academy’s second year, and there are three students. Four women are enrolled for next fall, added Mawuli. The school focuses on training young women from rural areas, who might not otherwise have the opportunity for advanced schooling. Mawuli puts most of her own salary from piloting and engineering back into the academy.

She said she wants to see young women pushed to achieve their potential. “I told myself, well if I have done this, there are many more women out there,” who might want to do the same. “And yet how many don’t have enough money to send them to continue their education.”

She said working at the academy has been a privilege. “In the world these days, not many girls go into engineering. And to be able to see these young and enthusiastic ladies, who are looking to learn more about engines, it’s a bit more encouraging – there’s hope for the future.”

Ghana pilot Patricia Mawuli discusses her path to flight.
Ghana pilot Patricia Mawuli discusses her path to flight.i
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Comments
     
by: Didyay from: Sweden
June 12, 2012 12:18 PM
Brilliant Pat Mawuli, all the best. Thank you for the comment Capt. Yaw.

by: Bruce Nishimwe from: San Diego
June 05, 2012 5:29 PM
This is awesome, more girls in Africa should come out and learn how to fly. I am my self a pilot and flight instructor here in USA, I intend to use Aviation as way to inspire the next generation of Africa to achieve their goal. We need to support the AvTech Academy . I need to get in touch in AVTech Academy.
Congratulations.

by: Richard Asmah from: usa
May 16, 2012 5:35 PM
This is awesome, I was overwhelmed with suprise when I read the article. She would have to take this to a higher level, train more kids and build more airplanes for farming and transporting patients from villages to hospitals in nearby cities.

This is amazing, the government of Ghana need to support this lady and her academy so that Ghana can have more emergency aiplanes and also for domestic commercial flights to ease traffic congestion on the roads of Ghana.

Good job Pat and CONGRATULATION.

by: Capt. Yaw from: Ghana
May 15, 2012 1:52 AM
A great article on some wonderful girls and women!

Just a tiny correction or two to the text... Patricia is the first woman to gain the National Pilots licence in Ghana (as per the audio). Also, to clarify, since this is an American 'Term' site, the term Ultralight means something different in the USA to Ghana. In Ghana these are called UL (Ultralight), however, in USA terms these girls are building and flying LSA (Light Sport) aircraft.

To clarify, 2% of the worlds aircraft are airliners, the majority of the rest are smaller aircraft and what is called General Aviation.

These girls are amazing - Patricia is an amazing pilot and instructor, engineer, mentor and role model to many many girls. I am privileged to know them and work with them. You can see their pictures and activities at
http://www.medicineonthemove.org
http://medicineonthemove.blogspot.com
http://avtechacademy.blogspot.com
http://www.waasps.com

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