For Daphine Ankunda, the sky is not the limit as she lives her dream of flying a plane

Whenever an aircraft flew over their house, a young Daphine Ankunda would imagine what it would feel like to to be in its cockpit.

Not anymore. Now she is living her dream.

“As they always said in motivational quotes asking us to shoot for the skies, I always envisaged myself flying the aircraft that I used to see in the skies. For me, even the sky was not the limit,” Ankunda said at the start of our conversation.

As the old adage goes, never count eggs before they hatch, Ankunda’s dream of becoming a pilot was out of reach for her since the family didn’t have the funds to enable her pursue the course.

She says that after A-level at Naalya Secondary School in Kampala where she did Maths, Economics, Geography and ICT, she went to Kyambogo University studying accounting and finance.

Side income

Ankunda says that since childhood, she has always wanted to make her own money so as not to bother her parents with some of the requirements and while at university, she decided to learn baking.

“I went to Gifted Hands Pastry School Kampala where I learnt how to bake cakes. While I was studying at university, I started selling cakes and earned some money for myself,” she says.

Dream comes true

As they say, better things come to those who wait, it took longer for Ankunda to come closer to realizing her dream of becoming an aircraft pilot.

She says that after graduating from Kyambogo University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance she decided to upgrade to become a certified financial analyst.

“I wanted to be a certified financial analyst and to achieve this, I went to Strathmore University Nairobi for more studies.”

Ankunda says that while in Nairobi, one of her mother’s friends had a brother who was working in Kenya’s aviation industry.

This connection reawakened her desire to become a pilot.

 “Strathmore being near an airport in Nairobi increased my desire and love for airplanes grew. When I narrated it to my mum, she too was happy with it and encouraged me to ask whether I could be allowed to do a course that would enable me become a pilot. I was happy when I was told I could do it,” Ankunda says.

She says she stayed at Strathmore University for only two weeks in which she applied for a vacancy and before she could begin studies, the love for flying aircraft grew and just like that, she changed course.

The journey to becoming a pilot started at that time and as they say, the rest is history.

According to Ankunda, at the flight school they study everything.

“We are like we are back to senior one. We study physics, geography, maths, biology and everything there is. The only thing you should be good at is fluency in English but also those who performed well in physics are at an advantage,” she says.

First day in the cockpit

Just like any other person who is new at something, Ankunda’s first day in the cockpit was a nervous one.

She could not believe that she was inches closer to her dream.

“I came without headsets since I didn’t know they were a requirement. However, my instructor was on my side all through because everything was all new to me.”

She says during her studies, she had to change aviation school to a more serious one and this meant she also had to change the instructor.

Not for the fainthearted

Ankunda says at the flight school, everything is expensive including the test flights that they have to do almost everyday to ensure they perfect the trade.

“For example, each hour with a flight instructor is $ 135 (approximately Shs 473,577). It was expensive for my family yet one must have at least 45 hours of flight to become a private pilot,” she says.

Recently, Ankunda graduated as a private pilot and she was quick to take to her social media accounts to celebrate the milestone.

She says that as a private pilot, she can now fly light aircraft without being paid and after getting the required rating, she can be able to fly the big ones.

Ankunda reminisces on her efforts to be able to fly without an instructor that she says had ups and downs before she was able to perfect it for the first time on October, 31, 2021.

“The journey was not easy. It took me some time to go solo but also meant more money to be paid and more time to spend learning. I got my first solo flight at the end of October 2021 but I cried because I could not believe I had done it. I cried through the whole journey.”

She says that when she landed, the air traffic controller could not believe she had done it.

“It so exciting but at the same time so emotional. I didn’t think I would get to that moment because someone had earlier told me I could not fly and that I should choose another career.”

Future is bright

Ankunda says that having graduated as a private pilot, the future is now bright and will aim higher as she pursues her dream.

“In the next few years, I hope to get my commercial pilot license so that I can be able to work for remuneration,” she said.

She saidsaid she wants to become an instructor so that she becomes an inspiration to many other girls out there who would want to chase their dreams of becoming pilots but are scared to give it a try.

“I want to become an instructor so that I help students, especially females who find difficulties. Most instructors didn’t go through the difficulties and struggle like I did. I believe what I went through can give proper lessons to others to also succeed.”

“I want to see the number of Ugandan girls succeeding in becoming pilots go up since we have a few. My dream is to see many Ugandan female pilots dominate the industry worldwide,” she said.

She says that despite yearning to become an instructor to help others, her bigger dream is flying the big aircraft but above all, becoming a flight captain as the epitome of her career.

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