Women in the public sector
Electrical engineer Nomsa Mojele helps ensure our airports meet international safety standards
Nomsa Mojela is an electrical engineer who heads the South African Civil Aviation Authority team responsible for helping ensure our airports
meet international infrastructure safety standards.
Ever wondered who is responsible for the runway lights that safely guide landing aircraft after dark or in extreme weather? Nomsa Mojela, 37, is Aerodrome Infrastructure manager at the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). She explains that aeronautical ground lighting illuminates airport movement areas to ensure the safe operation of aeroplanes at night or in low-visibility conditions.
“The lights must conform to standards in terms of their colour, pattern, coverage and brightness,” she says. “The aerodrome electrical inspector ensures that all licensed airports in South Africa comply with these standards.”
Mojela comes from Mamelodi in Tshwane. She holds a diploma in electrical engineering from Tshwane South TVET College.
As head of the Aerodrome Infrastructure section, Mojela has six inspectors reporting to her: three electrical inspectors and three civil infrastructure inspectors.
Her section's duties include checking precision approach path indicators, aerodrome electrical systems, generators, and the switching and transformer rooms at airports.
Precision approach path indicators provide guidance information to help a pilots acquire and maintain the correct approach to an airport or aerodrome. They consist of a wing bar of four sharp transition multi-lamps.
“They are generally located on the left side of the runway,” Mojela says. “They are constructed and arranged in such a manner that a pilot making an approach will see the two units nearest to the runway as red and the two units much further from the runway as white.”
This allows the pilot to judge the correct landing angle, preventing the aircraft from undershooting or overrunning the runway.
“The aerodrome electrical inspector verifies the correctness of the angles on these lights. They would also inspect the electrical systems on the airport, by ensuring that the airport is provided with adequate secondary supply in the event of power failure.”
Before joining SACAA Mojela worked in the engineering department at Transnet.
“After completing my N6 in record time, I applied for a Transnet Property leadership programme, which opened doors for my engineering career,” she says.
“I was the first black woman to qualify as an artisan under this programme. Because I did so well, I was offered permanent employment by Transnet Property.”
She worked at Transnet for six years before moving to SACAA in 2010. It was her first job in aviation. She now can't imagine herself not being in the industry.
Mojela initially worked as an aerodrome electrical infrastructure inspector in SACAA's Aerodromes and Facilities department. In September 2016 she was appointed manager of Aerodrome Infrastructure.
“This was the greatest highlight of my career so far,” she says.
Learning to be a leader
Mojela is proud to work for SACAA, she adds, because the organisation saw her potential and entrusted her with the responsibility of heading the section.
“I still have a lot to learn in terms of being a leader. I'm lucky to be a manager in an organisation that prides itself in having a robust leadership-development programme, as well as coaching and mentorship initiatives.”
Mojela thoroughly enjoys her job. She is glad to be part of a team that ensures South African airports maintain the international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
“I also enjoy travelling to different countries to learn about industry best practices,” she says.
“Even the sky is not the limit. I will reach for higher goals, and become one of the great women in aviation.”
Working twice as hard
Mojela says the aviation industry is still male-dominated. As a black female manager she finds herself having to work twice as hard to get her message across.
“However, SACAA as an organisation has a very strong leadership support programme for their managers.”
She encourages young people to be interested in a career in aviation, but warns that they must be willing to work.
“Young people should work hard and follow their dreams in the aviation industry. They should apply for every opportunity presented to them.The SACAA website has lots of bursary opportunities advertised on pilot cadet programmes, avionics, aircraft maintenance engineering, and more.”
Mojela's ambitions include becoming one of the top females in South African aviation. “For me, even the sky is not the limit. I will reach for higher goals, and become one of the great women in aviation.”