Johannesburg - A group of 40 young South African men and women are set to start the exciting journey towards earning their wings.This follows an announcement by South African Airways that it has completed the selection process of candidates who will be part of SAA's Cadet Pilot Development Programme.Their training to become qualified commercial pilots started on Monday. with 14 months of theoretical and practical training which will enable them to get a ‘frozen' ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License). This will be followed by approximately three years of internship.The Cadet Pilot Development Programme caused controversy last year when it was reported that they were not accepting applications from white males. The ban was lifted shortly after and applications extended to give those originally excluded a chance to apply. SAA explained in a press release that the final 40 candidates fall under the category of previously disadvantaged individuals (African, Coloured, Indian, White female) as defined in the Employment Equity Act.It is important to note this in the context of the current reality and measures that need to be taken.The cadet programme is the airline's effort to transform not only its own but also the country's flight deck community which is nowhere close to reflecting the country's demographics."As a state-owned company, SAA is pleased to make this announcement during the Youth Month when the airline reflects on initiatives that focus on the country's youth in order to empower them to acquire scarce and critical skills required in aviation. The Cadet Pilot Development Programme is but one of these initiatives," said SAA spokesperson Mr. Tlali Tlali.For its 2012 intake, SAA received 5 278 applications of which 271 were shortlisted and moved on to the next phase of the selection process resulting in the selection of 40 young South Africans to participate in SAA's Cadet Pilot Development Programme."It is important to ensure that there is transformation across all disciplines in the company. At the moment, SAA's flight deck crew is not reflective of South Africa's race and gender demographics. It is thus evident that SAA and other local aviation operators need to take steps that will redress the demographically skewed work force and to ensure the advancement of the previously disadvantaged," Tlali elaborated.SAA's transformation strategy is informed by the BBBEE Aviation Sector Charter. In the case of this particular programme, when assessing all applications, SAA is obliged to give preference to previously disadvantaged groups."SAA is always guided by the South African Constitution and constantly endeavours to operate within the framework of the law," added Tlali.