Remofilwe Mathebula on being South Africa’s first black female hot air balloon pilot

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Remo Mathebula spends her days up in the sky
Remo Mathebula spends her days up in the sky

She spends her days floating around - literally. She is the first black South African woman to receive a hot air balloon license and she's super excited about it. 

She fell in love with hot air ballooning when she started working as a marketing assistant in a hot air balloon company, now she is the one doing the flying. 

Remofilwe Mathebula was born and raised in Pretoria. She has Honours in International Relations and Politics from the University of the Witwatersrand. And a passion for flying balloons - really big ones. 

She tells us all about how she got here. 

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“It’s yet to sink in the magnitude of it all but it has been a phenomenal experience and journey. Everyone has showered me with love, support and shared in the joy of this achievement, which has truly touched my heart,” she tells Drum.

“It feels incredible as if I’m floating on a cloud, without the balloon this time.”

Before she officially started her job at the hot air balloon company, the 2018 Afrox South African Hot Air Balloon Championships were scheduled for that week. When she arrived at the event, Remo instantly fell in love with the sport.

“In the year to come I mastered the skills required for the day-to-day operations for ballooning; and found myself as one of the event organisers for the 2019 Afrox South African Hot Air Balloon Championships,” she shares.

Her knowledge and exposure to ballooning was quite limited before her introduction, and her mission now is to grow sports ballooning in the country. 

"The top statement I’ve gotten from several people I have engaged with is ‘I didn’t know hot air balloons require pilots’," she jokingly tells us.

"There is something very special about ballooning, whether experiencing it as a spectator, or a passenger on a balloon safari or learning how to fly; I cannot put it into words. Each step along the way drew me in deeper and the sport has provided me with structure, principle, and a confidence boost," Remo says.

Even though she has received her license, Remo believes her journey has just begun.

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"I have several ideas and plans on how best I can pay it forward and grow ballooning. I truly believe one cannot be what they can’t see, and if my journey and storytelling inspires even just one more individual, I will have achieved my desired goal," she says.

She urges parents to motivate their children to learn more about aviation. 

"The industry has so much to offer and all it takes is hard work, determination, and curiosity to put you well on the right path to find your own feet in aviation. There are several aviation days, rallies, and funding opportunities and as an ambassador, I hope to highlight every opportunity available to all parties keen to get involved. I urge everyone interested in getting involved to reach out to myself, BAFSA and Aero Club of South Africa, we are more than happy to guide them (young and old) in the right direction," Remo says.

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