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Air Seychelles remembers its pilots

As Seychelles celebrates 45 years of aviation on aviatrix’ 70th birthday!

Aggie Piper Cub  Kenya2Aggie Dent, who was the first aviatrix in Seychelles, has been welcomed back to the islands by Air Seychelles to enjoy her 70th birthday in the warmth of the people and sunshine during the cold South African winter.

Born Robinson and commonly known as Aggie, she is now a great example of the role of ladies in the aviation industry.

With over 40 years of experience, she learned to fly at the young age of 16 in a wood and canvas Piper Cub in the Kenya highlands, Aggie went solo in only 6 hours.

She then did her instructors rating in Thruxton, Wiltshire, England, and in 1965 at the age of 19 she was a qualified instructor so she went back to Kenya to teach at the Aero Club at Wilson Airport, Nairobi.

She came to Seychelles in 1972 to set up the Seychelles Aero club, with the late Mike Savy as chairman, who founded the aircraft with 8 other founder members.

Aggie Robinson was the Club instructor for seven years, then became the private pilot license (PPL) examiner, which meant she could test and give licenses.

One of the eldest Seychellois pilot, Francois Jackson, was a student of Aggie back in 1975, where she taught him to fly on a Cessna 152 aerobat and exactly 40 years ago he qualified for the PPL on July 21, 1976.

Captain Jackson later became Air Seychelles’ chief pilot but he is now a line pilot.

During their reunion recently, Aggie presented her past student with an outstanding achievement award for his 40 years contributing towards aviation and recalled their memories from 40 years ago when Aggie was Captain Jackson’s instructor.

Aggie and Francois Jul 2016Captain Jackson said Aggie made him the pilot he is today.

He said it has been an enjoyable 40 years and to him flying is a passion so it will be a shame when it comes to an end.

“If it’s not a passion don’t go there (to be a pilot) and that I believe is the major problem in aviation today in the world as it has expanded so fast and because they need pilots so badly, not only pilots per se but passion is not necessarily the guide,” he said.

In terms of family life Captain Jackson said a strong marriage or a very understanding family is needed because as a pilot you are away from home for a very long time and a lot of sacrifices has to be made.

He said there are prospects for young Seychellois in the aviation industry and this is the time to go for it.

Career defining moments for Aggie while in Seychelles was in August 1975 when the Ero schooner disappeared while heading for Praslin. She flew out to help find it and managed to save the life of a lone lady who had veered away from the capsized boat in the rough seas.

Aggie was the first person to land on Denis Island in the C152, when the airstrip was only half complete in March 1977.

She also worked in South Africa where she maintained fighter jets owned and operated by civilians in Thunder city, Cape Town and she ferried two Cessnas from Cape Town to Addis Ababa in 2007 and again in 2008. Her last flight was in March 2008.

Another amazing moment for Aggie was on Independence Day June 29, 1976 when she did an aerobatics display over Victoria. The cloud cover was low and as she did loops and spins over the crowds near the old Port, the crowds below her parted and ran in all directions.

She eventually pulled out at 20 ft altitude, between the masts of two yachts moored at the yacht club.

“Aviation in Seychelles has done very well in the past 45 years,” Aggie observed. “When the airline first started it was only one flight per week and people used to come down to look at the aircraft during landing and takeoff and it was a national excitement. Today I can’t believe the number of airlines that comes in,” she remarked.

Aggie said she could have progressed in the industry but she wanted to impart onto others what she had learned. Becoming an instructor to her was a natural thing as her parents were both teachers.

She wanted to fly for as long as she can remember and now she terribly misses flying as a pilot. She said she is a terrible passenger as she always wants to go upfront and tell them how to do things properly.

Her message to girls or young women who are thinking about prospects in flying is: “I did it at 16, you can to and girls can make better pilots than men since we are better at multi tasking.”

Aggie was accompanied on her visit by her daughter Shirley Jooste and sister Mia Dunford.

Source : Seychelles NATION

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