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Captain Eric Manentsa has been appointed as the first black chief pilot at South African Airways (SAA).

The announcement was made on Wednesday by Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba.

Manentsa’s appointment is effective as of 1 June 2014. It follows the retirement of captain Johnny Woods who was the chief pilot and head of flight operations.

Minister Gigaba described his appointment as a proud moment for the airline and a ‘milestone decision’ coinciding with the country celebrating 20 years of democracy.

Manentsa has been flying for SAA for 20 years and has been the fleet captain on the A319/A320 fleet for the past six years.

As the chief pilot, he will be responsible for the airline’s 800 pilots in terms of their day to day function, ensuring the company remains compliant to local and international regulations and to continue supporting the company in fulfilling its mandate.

Manentsa has 30 years of experience in aviation in South Africa and has to date amassed approximately 14 000 flying hours.

He obtained his Commercial License in 1987 and has worked for the Department of Transport in the former Ciskei, the SA Department of Defence and completed Officer Forming and Junior Command staff courses at the South African Air Force College.

He joined SAA in 1994 as an in-flight relief pilot on the Boeing 747 for nine months before flying as a First Officer on the Boeing 737 on the domestic and regional network. He has also flown the Airbus A320s and when these were phased out he flew as Senior First Officer on the Airbus A340s.

Manentsa played a key role in the formation of the original SAA Cadet Pilot Programme.

He has also been a key figure in the airlines further efforts towards transforming the flight deck in that he was a member of the committee that was tasked by SAA and SAAPA (the SAA Pilots Association) to address the seniority of those pilots from non-white groups who got their licenses prior to 1994 and subsequently joined SAA after 1994. -