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Limpopo crimefighter reaches new heights

Warrant Officer Tebogo Mamogale (33) from the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) Polokwane Air Wing is the only female qualified commercial helicopter pilot in Limpopo.

Mamogale spends her days working with her on-the-ground colleagues to coordinate crime-fighting operations, including chasing cash-in-transit robbers and doing search-and-rescue operations.

“We fight different crimes with our on-the-ground police members. We assist them in places they cannot reach due to terrain challenges. We also give clear direction to on-ground members when tracking and searching for cars and suspects,” she said.

Mamogale’s job is exciting, as it changes hourly. “In the SAPS, you cannot assume what your day will look like or choose your calls, like flying from one airport to another, because we get different calls for different crimes,” said Mamogale.

Pursuing her passion

Mamogale’s passion for flying started at a young age. When she saw jets flying high above her home, she wondered how aeroplanes were able to fly. To satisfy her curiosity, she visited airports.

“I did a lot of airport visits for exposure, conducted aviation research and sought career guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) when I was in high school,” she said.

Despite coming from a disadvantaged background, in Jericho in North West, Mamogale was determined to pursue her dream. “I honestly thought aviation was not for people of my colour, due to limited exposure, opportunities and situations. Surprisingly, the CAA’s staff were my colour and this taught me to never allow my limitations, background and current situation to define my future,” she said.

To achieve her dream of becoming a pilot, Mamogale trained as a cabin crew member at the Quantum Aviation Academy in Benoni after completing matric at Micha-Kgasi High School. She then studied for a Diploma in Travel and Tourism at Rosebank College’s Pretoria campus and is now studying towards a Diploma in Safety Management at the University of South Africa.

Mamogale started her career at the SAPS as a cabin crew member in December 2008 and used the opportunity to get closer to the cockpit to learn as much as she could about flying an aircraft.

“Immediately after matric, I pursued aviation, trained and graduated as a cabin crew member and then joined the SAPS as a cabin crew member for government ministers and high-profile SAPS delegates,” said Mamogale.

Before being allowed to fly, Mamogale had to pass rigorous tests with the SAPS’s Air Wing training team. She trained to be a pilot at the National Airways Corporation in Germiston, obtaining a student pilot licence. She then obtained her private pilot licence, before obtaining her commercial pilot licence. The different licences enable her to operate at different levels.

“A private pilot licence gives you an opportunity to do both theory and practical training as a helicopter pilot and fly privately; not for remuneration,” Mamogale explained.

During her studies, she had to complete various modules, including navigation, flight planning, meteorology, radio aids, human performance, air law, instruments and helicopter electronics.

Facing challenges head-on

Mamogale said she faced several challenges when she started her career, as she had to learn to adapt to the different needs of various operational calls. She also faced many challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field.

“Aviation on its own is a challenging environment because it’s a male-dominated industry, which puts more pressure on female pilots to stand out and prove themselves.

“The flying basics are the same, but call-out operational flying – such as handling the aircraft, manoeuvres, terrains, heights, weather and other factors – differ. You are not told what call-out to expect, so you need to be ever-ready mentally, physically and emotionally for any call,” she said.

Mamogale’s career is on an upward trajectory and she intends staying on this course.

“One of my career highlights was my first escort flight for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to Moria in Limpopo for the opening of a new school. I was so excited and overwhelmed,” she added.

Mamogale now wants to pursue a PhD in Aviation Management.

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