The sky’s the limit

2012-07-13 15:49

He’s a high-flying achiever who is living his dream as a trailblazing pilot and entrepreneur in the aviation industry.

When he was 20, Ernest Kekana battled formidable hurdles to become a qualified pilot certified to fly big passenger planes, including Boeing 747s.

At 27 he became the youngest ever owner of a charter airline, K5 Aviation.

Now in his mid-thirties, he has big expansion plans for his aviation company.

‘My fascination with aeroplanes started when I was very young. I saw my first plane at close range when I was six and I was very excited. I was keen to explore its every corner, including the cockpit. I believe flying is my destiny.’

What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?

To stay in the airline industry despite the recession. Financially we took a serious knock.

We have been on survival mode for some time, but now we are in a good position to expand our operations to places such as Cape Town.

What’s the worst business decision you’ve ever made?

Every decision is a learning experience. You are bound to make mistakes.

Trial and error is part of an entrepreneur’s life.

What keeps you motivated to do your best in this industry?

My passion for flying. I get so much personal satisfaction whenever there are requests from clients to use our flights.

It is even more exciting when the aircraft lands and everybody – passengers and crew – is pleased and satisfied.

What’s your business philosophy when assessing job candidates?

Candidates who sound passionate and are fascinated by the industry stand a better chance than those who are simply looking for a job.

Who are your role models?

Sir Richard Branson. As founder of Virgin Airlines, he was courageous enough to take on the big guns like British Airways – and make it.

Others are Tony Fernandes, founder of Air Asia and David Neeleman, director and president of Azul Brazilian Airlines.

What’s your advice to aspiring pilots?

I do motivational talks for young people and my message is always the same: don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

Pursue your dream. Have a plan to achieve it and stick to your guns.

If you have a passion for your chosen path, financial success will eventually follow.

» Fly by with Ernest

What are your other interests?

I’m a classically trained pianist which requires discipline, co-ordination and utmost concentration. Beethoven, Chopin, Bach and Schubert are my favourite composers.

I am also an avid Formula One fan.

Favourite planes?

All planes are designed for specific missions. I love anything that can take to the skies – from single-engine, two-seater light aircraft to the 500-seater Airbus.

Favourite movies?

Top Gun and Air America. I fell in love with Top Gun at the age of 10 and more than 20 years later, it remains my favourite aviation movie. I can recite the whole script!

» Get your iMag with City Press on Sunday.

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