Captain David “Blackhawk” Simelane officially became the country’s first black game capture-rated pilot last week.
Simelane completed his game capture rating, an endorsement on his pilot licence, with flying colours.
Simelane has been a helicopter pilot for 16 years, and has flown as far as Madagascar and South Sudan.
He began working for the South African National Parks (SANParks) this year, and was also the first black helicopter pilot to work under the SANParks Air Services in the Kruger National Park.
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A game capture rating is a complex achievement, with helicopter pilots having to simultaneously take the environment, animals, crew and managing the helicopter into account.
“Working as a pilot for SANParks is a calling, it is tough but I am in a blessed position to say that this is not a job for me, it’s a passion. Couple that with the fact that I am doing it in the same park I first fell in love with wildlife 25 years ago, is just a dream come true for me,” Simelane said.
“I have a passion for flying and now I get to combine that with my love for wildlife and nature. I wake up in the morning knowing that every flight I do is to make a difference in nature conservation and in people’s lives.”
SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni gushed over Simelane’s achievements, saying he was an inspiration to young black aspiring pilots”.
“As a world, society has started to realise how important both our natural and cultural heritage is, and with a passionate and educated person like Simelane at SANParks, we can continue to conserve and leave future generations with the natural beauty and heritage of South Africa.
“Today is a proud day for SANParks and the SANParks Air Services, we salute David Simelane and wish him well as he goes onwards and upwards” Mketeni said.
Compiled by Nica Richards
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