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First female long haul Captain earns her Airbus wings

First female long haul Captain earns her Airbus wings

The sky’s definitely the limit as proven by Air Namibia’s Captain Cornelia Hahn who recently became the airline’s first female long haul Captain, operating the Airbus A330-200.

The Airbus 330-200 is servicing the Windhoek – Frankfurt route and her appointment was effective as from 1 April, following her successful completion of her simulator training..

Captain Cornelia Hahn, (42), is an Airline Pilot and the first female Captain for Air Namibia’s Airbus A330-200. For the past 20 years, she has flown passengers to domestic, regional and international destinations. It takes a certain kind of personality and skills to thrive as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Cornelia has proven time and again she is up to the task.

Captain Hahn became a pilot some 20 years ago as a Commercial Pilot at Westair Wings Charters. Two years down the line in 1999, she joined Air Namibia as a First Officer on the Beechcraft B1900, serving on Namibia’s domestic routes. The then First Officer Cornelia was mainly responsible for preparing the cockpit as an active pilot and assisting the Captain in command. This total immersion in every aspect of the aviation industry only enhanced her love for flying.

In December 2001, Captain Hahn’s skill and dedication earned her a promotion to the rank of a Captain on the Beechcraft B1900. Her role was to operate the assigned aircraft as Commander and she also ensured the maintenance of standard operating procedures throughout the flight. The role also included flight planning and monitoring all safety protocols before and during the flight. Knowing that you are never done learning, Captain Hahn continued to pursue her aviation studies, enabling her to start flying the regional aircraft used in the early 2000s.

In March 2003, she was trained at Comair’s Training Facilities as First Officer on Boeing 737. Whilst flying and raising two small children simultaneously, she still managed to continue pursuing her career and became the first female Captain of the regional fleet of the Boeing 737 in April 2008.

In April 2012, Captain Hahn received training to operate the Airbus A319-100 in Zürich, Switzerland. The Airbus A319-100 replaced the Boeing 737, that used to service regional routes. She operated the Airbus A319-100 for about two and a half years. During the second half of 2013, Air Namibia leased two Airbus A330-200 with a total passenger capacity of 244 seats, in two class configurations to service the Windhoek– Frankfurt route.

“In November 2014, I made the decision to join the long haul fleet and gained experience on the Airbus A330-200 and the routing to Frankfurt as First Officer,” she said. In the first quarter of this year, Captain Hahn finds herself as the first female Captain for the Airbus A330-200.

Asked about how she managed to stay focused and reach the highest level, Captain Hahn said, “It was always a challenge for me to see if I could reach my current position. It makes me proud to hear that I inspire young people, especially young women who dream of becoming pilots. My achievements show them that it does not need to be a dream. With dedication and focus they can make it happen. Being a mother of two, Captain Hahn explains that she dedicates her time off to her family. “You have to be organised as the daily family routine needs to continue when you are not at home. I am very fortunate to have a family that supports my career,” she said.

In her 20 years of career development, Captain Hahn said that her husband, Carl Hahn, Captain for Airbus A319-100 has been a pillar of strength. “My husband motivates and supports me, just as he has done throughout my career. My determination to succeed comes from both the positive and negative criticism I received during my training and flying career. Criticism pushes me to do better and strive for greater heights.”

In her words to young women who wish to join the aviation industry, she advised; “Believe in yourself. Keep on working hard and never give up,” she added.

Air Namibia’s fleet is on average nine years old, making it one of the youngest fleets on the continent. Air Namibia operates x4 ERJ 135 Embraer for domestic routes, x4 Airbus A319-100 for regional routes and x2 Airbus A330 – 200 for international routes.

About The Author

Mandisa Rasmeni

Mandisa Rasmeni has worked as reporter at the Economist for the past five years, first on the entertainment beat but now focussing more on community, social and health reporting. She is a born writer and she believes education is the greatest equalizer. She received her degree in Journalism at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) in June 2021. . She is the epitome of perseverance, having started as the newspaper's receptionist in 2013.