Refilwe Moreetsi, who is one of our BCom graduates from the class of 2021, is a Senior First Officer at South African Airways (SAA). A fascinating woman, Refilwe is such an inspiration, and she exudes remarkability about her.
| In this recent catch-up, Refilwe shares her love of taking to the orbit and how this aviation passion was realised |
It is a journey of a young woman, whose passion for flying began at the tender age of seven, when she got the opportunity to take her first commercial flight to Durban, with her parents. Refilwe Moreetsi explains that she “got the opportunity to visit the flightdeck after landing. It was a memorable experience, and I knew then that I wanted to become a pilot.” Even in explaining this story, Refilwe’s passion can be felt, as she describes how intriguing her first flight was because it was something unique, never experienced, adventurous, a space of discovery and so exciting.
A young Refilwe, fancying this exciting aviation adventure, and to realise her airmanship prowess, was to set herself a challenge of seeking out opportunities after matriculation to make this dream a reality. Refilwe recounts that she “took a gap year to look for funding to start flying lessons. I saw an advertisement in one of the newspapers for the Airforce pilot recruitment. I went through a week-long selection process consisting of tests, medical checks and an interview. I got selected to join the South African Airforce, and that is how my aviation career started.”
When asked about the details of her pilot training that were to enhance her prospects of taking to the sky in an airbus, Refilwe says that “pilot training in the Airforce is slightly different from civilian flying. We completed a one-year certificate (Higher certificate in Military studies) through the University of Stellenbosch. Then later we began our flight training in Langebaan on the Pilatus PC 7 ‘Astra’. The training programme included aerobatics, formation flying, and low-level navigation.” For her, this was an exciting experience and a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience.
It is Refilwe’s zeal for learning that drove her to join DaVinci Business School, this time opting for an option to study a Bachelor of Commerce in Business Management (with electives in Aviation Management), with which she graduated in 2021. “It was a funded opportunity to pursue this qualification, and I jumped at the opportunity because I wanted to further my studies and wanted it to be related to my industry,” says a grateful Refilwe.
When asked about her academic experience at DaVinci Business School, Refilwe accords that this “was certainly different from the learning style I was previously accustomed to. The Mode two (2) teaching and learning style was a fantastic way to understand my industry because we were required to do actual, related research in all our modules throughout the course. The added benefit is that my research skills improved during each time I did a new module, as the academic programme progressed each year.”
Refilwe feels that her academic journey propelled her to step out of her comfort zone, thus ensuring an improved knowledge base, a shifted mindset and general growth. Equally important, Refilwe explains that the qualification “has sparked my interest in other areas of aviation. I have recently become involved in Fatigue Risk Management at my workplace. Therefore, my qualification has equipped me with the necessary tools and skillset to achieve tasks and realise goals in my organisation.”
A strong advocate for education, Refilwe has some advice to those aspiring to become pilots, especially for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, and she says that “[a] passion for aviation is the first step. To ensure you make it in this industry, one ought to be patient, resilient, focused, and hardworking. It is an incredible career and often, it does not feel like work. Unfortunately, training is quite expensive, so it is best to seek funding from various organisations. But never rest, and always find ways to upskill yourself while pursuing/awaiting opportunities elsewhere. If you can, do a course related to your chosen field. It is never bad to broaden your knowledge in an area that you love.”
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NB: The Da Vinci Institute does not offer pilot training but offers a Bachelor of Commerce in Business Management with various electives including one in aviation management (see the qualification’s details here.)