Port Elizabeth-born Matomela is the embodiment of hard work and dedication.
By the time she turned 19, she had obtained her private and commercial pilot licenses – a feat she managed to accomplish in just 20 months.
Matomela says her passion for aviation started from a young age, when she was lured by the sound of turbo engines.
“My aunt would take me and my cousins to the airport on a Sunday to watch planes taking off. It was a ritual we did almost every week that was started by my grandfather who also had a love for planes and had done the same with my aunt and her siblings,” she told DESTINY.
She knew she wanted to be a pilot after job-shadowing at the renowned 43 Air School in Port Alfred, Eastern Cape, while she was still attending high school at the Collegiate Girls School. “What was important for me was to see where it all starts,” she says.
A diligent student and an athlete, Matomela became the first woman to be awarded a Department of Roads & Transport bursary to complete her pilot training at the 43 Air School.
As one of four women in her aviation training class and the only black student, she says pursuing a career in aviation – a male-dominated industry – hasn’t always been the easiest journey, but she’s never let the obstacles get in her way.
“There are certain stereotypes people have of women. To beat them, you have to work a whole lot harder than the guys. But I feel that in life in general, you have to be willing to work hard at anything you do to achieve success,” she says.
Describing her first solo flight in the cockpit, she says, she felt overwhelmed and exhilarated at the same time and that feeling remains to this day.
In 2013, she moved to Joburg to become a flight instructor at Superior Pilot Services at Grand Central Airport in Midrand, where she trained cadet pilots for a year before she was invited to interview for a Junior First Officer position at South African Express.
After undergoing training to fly the airline’s Bombardier Dash Q400, she now flies domestically around SA, as well to Gaborone, Botswana and Windhoek, Namibia, and has over 800 hours flight time in her log book.
Her plans include moving on to bigger airlines like SAA, where she hopes to receive training on larger aircraft and eventually take command of other international flights. She also aspires to become a training captain.
Her advice to young girls considering a career in aviation is to join the Southern African Women in Aviation & Aerospace Facebook group for support and to seek answers to any questions you may have regarding the industry.