Meet the first female pilot in the history of Côte D’Ivoire

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 24, 2024 7:09 AM EDT

Aya Gertrude Konan has made aviation history by becoming the first Black female pilot for a commercial airline in Côte D’Ivoire. The former flight attendant currently serves as a First Officer at Air Côte D’Ivoire, commanding the Airbus A320. Her meteoritic rise from the cabin crew to the cockpit has shattered barriers in the West African country.

“When I fly, there is only the sky and me. It’s a wonder, a freedom. It’s inexplicable. You take off this wide-body aircraft, with more than a hundred passengers on board… You have the weight of this responsibility, but you say to yourself: ‘I am alongside the clouds’, ‘I am in the skies’.” Konan explained.

Konan has been drawn to planes since she was a child. However, financial constraints came in the way of her dreams of becoming a pilot. She chose the next best thing, becoming a flight attendant. Driven by a lifelong passion for aviation, Konan persevered through the challenges and stereotypes often faced by women in the field.

“I must have been eight years old. At the beginning of the school year, on the form we filled out, I wrote that I wanted to become an airplane pilot. This was the first time I had expressed this so clearly. The master called me and said: ‘You have a very big dream. If you stick with it and work hard, you’ll get there.’” Konan said about her early interest in aviation.

In 2014, Air Côte D’Ivoire initiated a program aimed at training young Ivorians for careers in aviation. Konan saw an opportunity to achieve her lifelong dream and applied. After rigorous assessments in subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, and English, Konan was one of the 15 candidates selected out of 1500 applicants. She was the only woman among the chosen candidates.

Konan studied theoretically at the National Polytechnic Institute Houphouët Boigny (INPHB) in Cote d’Ivoire and then pursued practical training in France. After two years and four months of training, she became the first female civilian airline pilot trained by the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. She also earned qualification as a Bombardier Dash Q400.

Konan’s historic achievement is being celebrated across the nation and in the diaspora. Her ascent in a male-dominated is an inspiration for women and aspiring aviators worldwide.