This Woman Is Blazing A New Trail As South Africa’s First Black Woman Hot Air Balloon Pilot

Semakaleng Mathebula had never seen a hot air balloon growing up but is now one of the few women in the industry.

This Woman Is Blazing A New Trail As South Africa’s First Black Woman Hot Air Balloon Pilot

Meet Semakaleng Mathebula, South Africa’s first Black woman hot air balloon pilot and one of the few women in the industry.

The 27-year-old from Hartbeespoort, South Africa, got into ballooning by accident.

During her job search, a recruitment firm notified her about an opening as a marketing assistant at a hot air balloon tour company.

It was only after she started the job that she fell in love with ballooning and realized there was a lot more than meets the eye when it came to the sport.

“Growing up I had never seen a hot-air balloon – there’s no balloons flying over Ga-Rankuwa. My interests were cooking, Accounting, at some point I wanted to do media but ballooning was not something that was in reach for me,” Mathebula told Reuters.

Deciding to pursue her passion, she eventually received a scholarship for her pilot training and earned her license .

Her journey to learn about the sport required an incredible amount of confidence, she said.

“When you don’t have a point of reference, you always doubt if you’ll be able to achieve what you’re doing,” the young pilot said. “Once you feel like you belong, everything else comes in naturally.”

Mathebula now says she hopes she can bring more youth and diversity to the once exclusive sport.

“When we think of aviation, we think of helicopters, we think your traditional planes, but ballooning is part of aviation – you are a pilot, it is an aircraft, and it is the field to explore, she said. “I’ve always been motivated by letting people have a point of reference to something new. And it’s an adventure, it teaches a lot of responsibility, and I developed a self-confidence in the sport that I would love to instill in people of the youth.”

Mathebula is now set to compete in the South African Hot Air Balloon Championship.

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