You are never too young to make your dreams come true. Audrey Maame Esi Swatson, Ghana's youngest female commercial pilot, knows this all too well. At 22, she's already making waves.
Born in 1997 in Saltpond, Ghana, she speaks fluent Twi, Fanti, and English. She had her basic education at the University of Ghana Basic school and her senior high education at the Ghana Christian International High School (Dodowa) where she studied General Science. After completing high school at age 18, she got admission at Mach1 Aviation Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Interestingly, she grew up not knowing she would become a pilot; she wanted to become either a pilot or an athlete. She settled on being a pilot to differentiate from her classmates, many of whom wanted to become either doctors or lawyers.
She told Ghana Web, "In the beginning, it was just saying something big close to being a doctor or a lawyer. I was nine years old and in class four, and there is this frequent question society would always want to know what you want to be in the future, and then I just had to say a pilot. And then again, in the beginning, I was really quiet. So I thought for a pilot you have to be in the cockpit and probably the passengers would just be behind you so you keep quiet, but during my flight training, you really talk a lot.
“I also wanted to be different, because when they call doctors in class there were a lot of people that are standing up; lawyers as well. And when I stand in class, they are like wow, and it’s like the wow thing kept me moving.”
She took her first solo flight in April 2016 and received her private pilot license the same year, at age 19. On Christmas eve 2018, she obtained her commercial pilot license.
It was not all smooth sailing for Audrey, however. Though her nuclear family was very supportive of her dream, not everyone was. Additionally, she had to leave for South Africa as studying to be a pilot was very expensive in Ghana. Furthermore, she failed some of her exams at the aviation academy and almost quit altogether. With the field being male-dominated, she says that her failures almost made her believe that she didn't belong there just because she was a woman.
"A number of times, I thought I didn’t want to do it again. At times it was tough, and I thought it was true that what people were saying, that women can’t do it, so maybe, I should just step back. Our flight instructors are usually males, and they will say 'no, you can do it' and that they know females they were also training with that have done it," she told Ghana News.
Audrey has been celebrated by her former school (University of Ghana basic school) and by the Ghanain ministry of aviation. She has also attended a conference in the USA sponsored by International Women in Aviation as the first African female pilot. In addition, she set up her own aviation company called Excel Aviation Company to empower women who aspire to move into the aviation sector.
Header Image Credit: Pulse Ghana