As Proflight Zambia celebrates 30 years of flying, we share fascinating insights into Zambia’s aviation history through serialisation of Proflight’s 50 years of Zambian Aviation book, published in 2014, to look how far we have come in the industry.
I joined the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in 1984 making this year 30 years of my life in civil aviation! This is my pearl celebration, as Zambia celebrates its Golden Jubilee this October. 1984 was the year the national airline, Zambia Airways, bought the McDonnell Douglas DC10 aircraft, nicknamed ‘the Nkwazi’. It was Zambia’s first wide-bodied aircraft.
I was employed by the late Captain Patrick Kawanu, a flamboyant and charismatic pilot who was both Director of Civil Aviation and Captain on the Boeing 737 for Zambia Airways.
When I arrived at DCA for interviews, he called in Brian Roberts, Chief of Airworthiness then, to interview me. Brian said, “I am afraid we can’t employ him, he has no degree.”
Captain Kawanu countered and said, “He comes on recommendation from Anthony James Beswick of UNDP, with a scholarship we are sending him to school.”
The leadership of later DCA changed to Mr Jimmy Bennett Zulu, popularly known as JB Zulu, who was Captain Kawanu’s Deputy Director and came to serve as Director for more than ten years. He was the longest serving director.
For me it was to prove to be one of the most exciting journeys of my life. My first flight to London was on the DC10. I travelled first class and I was invited to the cockpit by the Captain, Godfrey Mulundika. It was promising right from the word go. This was a civil aviation career that had started in 1979 and ended as Deputy Permanent Secretary in charge of Transport in 2012.
However, it was not always an easy life. It was a life fraught with lows and highs.
Despite the challenges, there were some highs at DCA. In the photo, taken some time in August 2009 in Cape Town, I am with Transport Secretary of the US Government and the Director of the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). This was after the signing ceremony of the Zambian Airports Master Plan Study. This was the first phase of USTDA’s African Trade Lanes Partnerships which involved a series of project missions to evaluate and define appropriate trade lane development investment and capacity building activities for USTDA funding consideration.
USTDA initiatives aim to support the objectives of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), including increased trade and investment in the African region. This was the genesis of the airport development you see today. I am happy to report that I am now involved in the Reverse Trade Mission on the USTDA mission to four cities in USA. I am privileged to be given this opportunity.
My venture in aviation was never an accident. Since I was young, I always talked about aviation. My dream came true when an advert appeared in the paper for an aircraft maintenance engineering (AME) students’ programme in 1979 at Zambia Air Services Training Institute (ZASTI) in Lusaka. Having joined the University of Zambia (UNZA) later than my colleagues I was still in first year in 1979. I left UNZA School of Natural Sciences to start this training. In the beginning I was extremely disappointed with the idea of cutting sheet metal in the workshop, and then learning how to file it into shape.
Chitalu Kabalika is now Proflight Zambia Corporate Director