As 4-year-old girl, Susan Mashibe, dreamed of owning her own aircraft….she did, but in between there were some shocks, surprises, and rewards, too!
How would you react if the first client of the company you founded happens to be the President of a large continent? “Wow!” you would exclaim. Hard to believe, but it really happened to a young and comely Tanzanian girl, Susan Mashibe. How did she reach there so high? It’s really so interesting. Let’s find out.
Susan is Founder and Executive Director of VIA Aviation – a global fixed-base aircraft services operation and the first company of its kind in Tanzania, an East African country. The big, exciting times in her life had a humble start, though.
It all started when Suzy (let’s give her a pet name) was merely years young. One day she was waiting at the Kigoma airport with her grandmother to see her parents’ plane take off. And the little lady thought to herself: “What only if I could fly a plane myself. Then my Dad and Mom would never leave me alone behind.”
In order to transform her baby-imagination into realty, Suzy had to wait for 15 years. Now a teenager of 19, she left behind her memories of childhood towns, Mwanza and Dar-es-Salaam, and was soon on a plane to the United States to learn to fly jetliners.
She joined Western Michigan University where she finished her studies and qualified – to eventually become Tanzania’s first woman FAA-certified pilot and mechanic!
Suzy also became the first woman in Tanzania to hold both an FAA-certified pilot and an aircraft maintenance engineer.
These achievements at such a young an age opened the doors wide open to fulfill her entrepreneurial destiny.
In the Summer of 2001, she received her pilot’s license, and was about to apply at Delta Air Lines Inc, when September 11, 2001 happened! The fatal and horrendous terrorist attack on World Trade Center in New York. Its tragic impact changed the world of aviation upside down, and that of Suzy, too.
At that point, she abandoned her efforts to obtain a US work permit, and returned to her home country Tanzania to build her aviation career, and help reshape African air travel.
Her bold step proved to be a life-changing decision. Today, Suzy owns and operates VIA Aviation, a tremendously successful and in a class-of-its-own aviation company which she founded in 2003. She specializes in providing world-class private jet handling and hanger services.
The company provides a wide range of aircraft handling, clearances and ground support, security and fuel in Dar-es-Salaam. VIA Aviation generates a whopping revenue of over $2 million, and Suzy has plans to expand the business to more than 20 countries throughout Africa. The company is highly regarded around the world. At Kilimanjaro International Airport, the company already has 80,000 square feet of hanger space.
In 2002, Suzy used up all her earnings to rent a small office in Dar-es-Salaam airport to start her company, TanJet, which provides technical and logistical support to corporate, diplomatic and private jets throughout Africa. It is the first company to offer such services in Tanzania and East Africa.
She has achieved all of this in an emerging and largely male-dominated industry in Africa, and her phenomenal success is a testimony to the influence of education, financial independence and strong belief in self-abilities.
Today, Suzy’s client list boasts of Heads of States, Royalty, Global Corporate Executives, the Military, Fortune 500 Executives, Celebrities and so on and so forth.
One of the secrets to Suzy’s entrepreneurial success, she says, is that she is fearless, and has an undying passion for the aircraft.
Now one may wonder what was the name that President who was her first client. It was none other than Jacob Zuma, current President of South Africa!