Flying in the skies with passengers onboard gives me a sense of responsibility and a sense of empowerment – Capt. Dalitso Phiri
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Aviation is a profession that is meant for go-getters and is also full of twists of fate.
From the inventors of the first aircraft – the Wright brothers – to the modern-day pilot, similarities of character are eminent: that oomph, that resilience; that passion; that drive; that thirst and tenacity to touch the sky can never be overlooked.
This is what Proflight Zambia’s Director of Government and Industry Affairs Capt. Philip Lemba saw in Dalitso Phiri, a young I.T. grad turned pilot fresh out of flying school, after being bombarded by his frequent emails of job enquiries.
Never in Dalitso’s dreams did he think he would become a qualified pilot. His story begins with his growing admiration and passion for planes and flying which started at a tender age. On hot summer afternoons, Dalitso and his friends made it a habit to go to the Ndola airport to gaze at aeroplanes gracefully take flight from the runway.
“When I was a boy, my friends and I used to go to Ndola airport and watch planes tear the sky. I was so fascinated. In my mind, I wondered how aeroplanes worked. Those childhood moments made me yearn to experience flight,” Dalitso says.
“The first flight I experienced was in 1989. It was a flight from Ndola to Lusaka. The first experience ignited the fire in me. Since then, I had a dream I thought I would never achieve, but I achieved it,” Capt. Dalitso adds.
Capt. Dalitso Phiri explains that his doubts about flying started when he thought of how expensive courses in flying were and this made him exclude himself from the list of future pilots soaring in Zambia’s skies. It was only his experience outside Zambia that made him change his perspective.
“At the time, I thought of the challenges; the training seemed expensive such that I didn’t know where to start. It’s only when I left Zambia that I got the exposure I needed to realise that this could actually happen,” Dalitso recalls.
Dalitso Phiri’s late father worked for the mines in the Copperbelt during his childhood before the privatisation era. Times eventually became rough as companies were either being privatised or being sold. Many jobs were lost and families were torn into disarray and unpredictability. In the face of such adversity, Dalitso’s mother was fortunate enough to find herself a job in Australia as a nurse. This made the family relocate ‘Down Under.’
While in Australia, a twist of fate transpired by a tour to the airport.
“I had just finished my I.T. diploma, which made me a qualified programmer. A friend of mine and I decided to take a tour to the airport in Melbourne. We observed how airport staff related including the pilots. I then realised that this is what I’ve always wanted and within a heartbeat, I resolved to chase for my passion,” Dalitso narrates.
Well, it was not as easy as Dalitso thought at first. Before his life changing first flight lesson, he needed to save money.
“I took my first flying lesson in 2007 and I remember paying my first instalment which was about $5,000 and it went just like that, but that’s how everything started,” Capt. Dalitso reminisces.
Not so long after this, Dalitso earned himself a private pilot’s licence and three years later, he obtained his commercial pilot’s licence in 2010.
“After obtaining my commercial licence, I took one of the biggest decisions of my life by quitting my job all for the passion of flying and so I needed to make myself a plan by making myself relevant by looking for a job as a pilot,” Dalitso explains.
Dalitso Phiri admits that he had been following Proflight’s trends even whilst in Australia. He had managed to find Proflight Zambia’s director of government and industry affairs Capt. Philip Lemba’s email address and regularly for job enquiries.
“I bet he (Capt. Lemba) got irritated but I kept on pressing him until the vacancy came up and I made the big move by quitting my job and left Australia for Zambia,” Dalitso chuckles.
When Dalitso came back to Zambia with a hope of finding a vacancy at Proflight Zambia, he met Capt. Lemba to enquire more about vacancies.
“Meeting Capt. Lemba was a gamble. Fortunately, he showed me the ropes by showed me procedures to follow when a vacancy arose. I didn’t get a job there and then, I had to wait for months for a vacancy and I was fortunate enough to be picked. I believe Proflight saw potential to go far with the company and I am glad I have proved this,” Dalitso explains.
Dalitso worked for Proflight for a couple of years before being offered a position on the Jetstream 41 and hopes to fly the 50-seater CRJ someday. He joined Proflight with 250 hours in the air and he currently approaching 4,000hours.
“One of my treasured moments as a pilot is when I am either on a flight to Dar es Salaam, Malawi or Mfuwe and then I hover over the Muchinga Escarpment – not everyone gets to do that often especially with the view from the front. That motivates me,” Capt. Dalitso sighs.
Capt. Dalitso Phiri appreciates being part of Zambia’s leading local airline as the company gives recurrent training for staff to put in their utmost best.
“Proflight has given me a privilege of gaining experience on complex aircraft like the Jetstreams. The courses vary from time to time. They range from courses dealing with dangerous goods, emergency procedure training, crew resource management, aviation medical and aviation security,” Capt. Phiri explained.
These recurring courses have helped Capt. Dalitso Phiri meet people who are well vested in the aviation industry and have offered an experience sharing platform.
“The trainings help us pilots to be on top of our game and keeps our standards high. They have also given us an opportunity to mingle with experts in the aviation industry who pass their experience onto us. I also intend to pass this experience to newer pilots who will join the industry,” Capt. Phiri explains.
The 33-year-old pilot encourages youths by saying that success never comes easily and that it is driven by passion.
“Aviation is not an easy industry. There is practically nothing easy in this life. It is all about how passionate you are. If you really want something in life, go for it. You can achieve your dreams,” Capt. Dalitso advises.
“I have been privileged to be a part of Proflight Zambia because the airline has helped build me to the level that I currently am. I am also grateful to the airline’s CEO Mr. Tony Irwin for taking me on and the training captains who include Capt. Ken Kabungo, Capt. Eugene Loftus not forgetting Captain Phillip Lemba,” Capt. Phiri says.
Captain Dalitso Phiri is married and enjoys driving and watching series during his spare time.