How did you get started in aviation?

When I was a child, my father used to take me to the airport to watch aircraft taking off. The fascination with aircraft grew within me. The thought of a big chunk of metal floating in the air just boggled my mind. I knew I had to find out what made it possible, because it was not magic. The aeronautical engineering degree just made it official.

What was your first aviation job?

I started as a student engineer designing a de-icing system for a composite main rotor blade for an attack helicopter. I had to ensure ice does not form on the blades. This involved creating a model that simulated the conditions. That gave me insight into the future exciting projects I would be involved in. My career started at Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE) now known as Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT). Initially I was a student engineer and when I graduated, I became a junior engineer.

And then Denel hired you?

I was given the opportunity to manage research and development projects in addition to my engineering duties at Denel Aviation, a division of the state-owned Denel Group – manufacturer and supplier of world-class defence and aerospace solutions. Managing design and development projects has been stimulating because I get to see a design on paper transform to a tangible product and see it in action. One can never know what challenge will pop up that should be solved, and this has an impact on the dynamics of the project. The achievements that I will be proudest of are yet to come.

How large is your team?

The teams differ from project to project. They range from 15 to 50 people, depending on the complexity and the amount of work involved in the project. The projects that consume most of my time are the design of a rotary wing unmanned aerial vehicle and managing a development project that involves designing and developing a replacement system on an aircraft.

What's the most challenging part?

The most challenging and amazing part of my job is being given requirements and turning that into a design model. The wonder is to start off with merely an idea and end up with a tangible usable structure. As a young female engineer and project manager, being developed for the programme manager position, the reality of having to manage engineers, mostly men, with more than 15 years of experience is daunting, yet exciting, as I continuously need to demonstrate my capabilities at the highest level and deliver to expectations. The other challenge is managing costs and the project schedule – ensuring costs are minimised by designing only to the requirement specification and trying to complete the project within the allocated time.

What’s rewarding for you?

My involvement in defence-related products has made me appreciate the country’s ability to protect its sovereignty while also contributing to peacekeeping and the stability of the institutional, social and economic development of the African continent. The aviation industry plays a pivotal role in the protection of the country’s borders and, therefore, its people and economy. Moreover, in South Africa today, air travel is on a continual rise and the ease with which these travels are carried, lies largely in the hands of the aviation industry. This allows easy and efficient business transactions which contribute to the growth of our economy.

Source: Flight International