As a young girl, Kaone Rubicelle Kamanakao would gaze up at the sky in hypnotised wonder every time an aeroplane flew by.
She promised herself that one day she too would learn how to fly.
Now 28, the Matopi native has already turned that childhood dream into an everyday reality.
The certified commercial pilot holds both a local and a South African licence, as well as being a Grade II flight and ground instructor.
She has trained a number of local pilots and mentors youth with an interest in pursuing a career in aviation.
Kamanakao also serves as the President of Women in Aviation Botswana (WAIB), the Executive Director of the Girl Fly Programme Africa in Botswana and is a Flight Operations Inspector for the country’s Civil Aviation Authority.
This year, as they launch the Girl Fly Programme Africa in Botswana, Women in Aviation will send 25 girls to an annual space camp in Johannesburg, set for the 1st to the 6th of July.
The six-day camp will be made up of different activities including, robotics (drones), aviation technology, personal growth and possible career paths in aviation.
Our Reporter Portia Ngwako-Mlilo had a chat with this pioneering pilot to discuss her career, mentorship programmes and the Girl Fly Programme Africa.
Q. What inspired you to become a pilot?
A. Often when I was a young girl, probably around the age of nine, we used to accompany my father to Sir Seretse Khama International Airport when travelling.
He would explain things about the different aircrafts to me.
That’s when my passion to become a pilot was triggered.
I also remember being at my grandparent’s farm as a young girl gazing up at the sky fascinated by aeroplanes passing.
I told myself one day I will fly.
Upon finishing my IGCSE, the Government sponsored me to do Commercial Pilot Licence Aeroplane with Multi-engine and Instrument Flying Rating in South Africa.
Q. Describe the public response to the Girl Fly Programme Africa?
A. So far we’ve had an extremely positive response from the general public.
We had lots of parents and some girls call to find out more about the initiative.
This year we aimed for 50 girls but could only select 25 girls to attend the camp.
We are hoping to host similar programmes in Botswana next year.
We have plans to extend the programme to 300 girls from all over SADC.
With help from the corporate sector and government, I believe we can.
Q. What are the entry requirements for this programme?
A. The requirements were that the girls be between Form 3 and Form 5.
They had to write an essay or draw a poster on any aviation related topic.
We have selected three out-of-school youth to attend the camp as well.
All selections will be made solely on merit and girls interested in aviation across the country are encouraged to apply.
The programme will include the use of design thinking, technology and innovation to inform, connect, motivate and inspire the next generation of makers and problem solvers in the aviation and space industry.
Q. Who will be taking care of the expenses for the Space Camp?
A. As far as expenses are concerned, we are covered by the Airlines Association of Africa.
Some of the flights to Johannesburg have been sponsored by Air Link.
We have also approached local sponsors to assist with the rest of the flight tickets.
We are happy to partner up with any corporate social responsibility programme for further assistance.
Q. What difference do you think this programme will make and what impact will it have on a Motswana girl child interested in aviation?
A. I think this program will impact the girl child in a very positive way.
Women in Aviation Botswana International was set up to advance women and girls in the aviation arena by offering mentorship, outreaches and sponsors for training and upgrades.
We intend to increase aviation awareness across the country.
Q. Why the girl child in particular?
A. We believe that if you educate a girl, you can in turn impact entire communities.
This industry has always been dominated by males.
We want to demonstrate to the young ladies that they can achieve anything they set their minds to and impact the next generation.
Having the girls interact with female role models will encourage them to foster good behaviour, as well as the discipline required to achieve their goals.
The programme also involves career guidance and personal growth.
We are grooming the next generation of Botswana’s Aviation industry!
Q. What challenges do you face in your mentoring programmes?
A. The greatest challenge we face is (lack of) manpower.
Most of our active members have full time jobs so it’s a challenge in terms of finding time to organise and coordinate our activities.
We are also currently looking for more corporate partners to assist with the continuity of the organisation.
Q. What would you say are your biggest achievements to date?
A. Some of my greatest achievements include receiving the South African 2012 Designated Examiner’s Award.
I was selected amongst a pool of candidates for showing the highest level of professionalism and aircraft handling.
This in turn led to a recommendation from flight school to continue with my flight instructor’s rating.
Launching WAIB and hosting Botswana’s first Girls in Aviation Day at Maun International Airport last September are also some of my greatest achievements.
Q. What does Women in Aviation Botswana do?
A. In line with the nation’s 2036 second pillar of Human and Social Development, Women in Aviation Botswana was set up for the promotion and advancement of women in the aviation sector.
We encourage skills development, mentorship and facilitate the growth of women (and men) in the aviation industry.
We do this through our various programmes, including scholarships for aviation training and community outreaches.
As President some of my responsibilities include securing funding to implement our programmes.
It also includes planning, coordinating and ensuring that all our activities are carried out properly.
Q. What does it take to be a great pilot?
A. For one to be a pilot the biggest requirement is passion!
That is followed by a strong work ethic and the ability to adapt well to different situations, especially emergencies.
Pilots are usually individuals that set very high standards for themselves both personally and professionally.
Aviation is a disciplined industry so that also goes a long way.
Good time management and communication make a good pilot.
Q. What do you enjoy most in this aviation industry?
A. What I enjoy the most about aviation is that I do two things – administration work and some days I will be in the field flying.
The variety in activities involved in my job make it most interesting and I am very passionate about it.
Q. Who is your inspiration?
A. My greatest inspiration is Minister Bogolo Kenewendo.
She has achieved a lot at a young age; being a minister at 31 is so amazing.
She is a role model to many, especially us women.
This is a testimony that we can also do it and there is nothing restricting us from achieving what we want!
Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. My schedule is always hectic.
I will be going through the Girl Fly Programme applications.
I am a mother of two so the little time I get, I spend with my kids.