A pivotal moment in Susan Mashibe’s life happened when she was just four years old, standing at the airport in Kigoma in Tanzania, holding her grandmother’s hand and watching as her parent’s plane took off. It was a poignant moment and one that made her think that if she could only fly a plane herself, then her parents would not leave her behind again.
That key moment was to change her life forever and was to take her on a journey from her childhood in Mwanza and Dar es Salaam, to studying at Western Michigan University and qualifying to eventually becoming Tanzania’s first female FAA-certified pilot and mechanic.
However, that was not the end of the story, only the beginning of the next chapter to fulfilling her entrepreneurial destiny. In the summer of 2001, she had just received her pilot’s license and was applying at Delta Air Lines Inc. when the terrible events of September 11th were to change the world, and aviation in particular. At that point, Susan abandoned her efforts to get a U.S. work permit and returned to Tanzania to build her aviation career in her home country.
It proved to be a life-changing move and today, Susan owns and operates VIA Aviation, a highly successful and unique aviation company founded in 2003, and specialising in providing world-class private jet handling and hangar services. Today, the company provides a wide range of aircraft handling, clearances and ground support, security and fuel in Dar es Salaam.
VIA Aviation generates revenue of over $2 million, and Susan has plans to expand the business to more than 20 countries throughout Africa. At Kilimanjaro International Airport, the company already has 80,000 square feet of hangar space. Susan’s client list is able to boast Heads of State, monarchs, global corporate executives, and the military. The company is also now a multi-million dollar aviation business and highly regarded around the world.
She has achieved all of this in an emerging and largely male-dominated industry in Africa, and her success is a testimony to the power of education, economic empowerment, and self belief. One of the key’s to Susan’s entrepreneurial success in life – she says she has no fear! Simply a deeply-held and long-standing passion for aircraft.
It is so inspiring to see the dreams of a very young girl growing up in Tanzania becoming a reality in later life, particularly when those dreams break the barriers to entry for a whole new generation of women in Africa’s aviation sector.
Not only is Susan Mashibe an amazing example of a women entrepreneur making great strides in breaking into the global aviation industry, but she is also inspiring and encouraging a new generation of women aviation across Africa and beyond. She is living proof that women entrepreneurs can be gamechangers in the world.