Ernest Kekana

Founder and CEO: K5 Aviation

When 34-year-old Ernest Kekana was growing up he didn't know any pilots. So every day after school, to feed his insatiable hunger for planes, he would spend hours reading aviation magazines at the local CNA. Once in a while he would get lucky and catch a ride to the airport, where he would watch the planes take off from the other side of the fence. Even then he thought to himself, "One day�� Finally, at the age of 20, Kekana became one of South Africa's first self-trained black pilots, having spent his teenage years working at Edgars to save up for private licence training. Once certified he landed a job with a charter company where he soon became senior flight operations controller for the entire Gauteng region. But although he was living his dream he found the industry to be indifferent to nurturing and developing black pilots and managers. Kekana knew it was time for a change in flight plan. Seven years later his K5 Aviation, a charter company with a fleet of 11 planes and three helicopters, employs 30 pilots, has 200 staff and operates under a rare international and domestic charter licence for "all category� aircrafts. The company also has a social development programme in place to help those who cannot afford to pursue their dream of becoming pilots. But what really makes Kekana proud is what his achievements can do for others. Recently a young man came up to him to thank him for speaking at his school a few years back. He told Kekana that his story made him realise that, as a young black man, he too could break into the aviation industry, something he had never believed possible. Today the man is studying aeronautical engineering at Wits, confirming Kekana's belief that "you just don't realise the real impact you can have�. � Eric Axelrod

Website: k5aviation.com