What drew you to the aviation industry?
I decided to become a pilot when I was four years old. I would see the big noisy bird take off and land at Bujumbura International Airport. I was fortunate enough to fly on the big bird, when I was seven years old, on a family trip to the United States. It was my first flight on a commercial airplane and I loved it.
Where did you study?
I started my training at Soroti Flying School, also known as East Africa Civil Aviation Academy, in Uganda. I then got a scholarship with RwandAir to continue my commercial license training at Vero Beach Florida, US, at Flight Safety Academy.
How many people graduated from your flight school and how many of them were women?
At Soroti Flying School, two women had graduated before me that I know of. At Flight Safety Academy, the number was bigger. There were up to 20 female students from all over the world, including the first female pilot from Saudi Arabia, Hanadi Zakaria al-Hindi. There were about 10 female instructors and the chief pilot, Nancy Ritter, was also female. But as many as we were, we did not even make up five percent of the academy.
How did you feel when you became the first female pilot in Rwanda?
Making history is not my goal, achieving my goals is what I delight in. After getting my commercial license I did not celebrate, I was looking forward to the next cockpit I would get into.
Your father passed away in a plane crash when you were eight. Did that affect your decision in any way?
No, it did not keep me from my dream. We do not stop driving because loved ones die in car crashes, why stop now? However, it made me realize the value of lives I have on board, so safety is definitely a big deal to me as a pilot.
Why do you think there are so few women pilots in the world?
Aviation is perceived to be a male career. As the first female pilot in Rwanda, I feel proud to have paved the way for all young dreamers, male or female, to achieve their dreams.
What challenges have you faced? Do you feel you always have to prove yourself as a woman?
I like to view my challenges as the reasons to celebrate having reached my goal. As a woman in a male-dominated field, there is no doubt that you have to prove yourself, but hard work always pays off.
What is your power principle?
Do what you love to do and people will appreciate it.