Susan Mashibe is founder and executive director of VIA Aviation, an international fixed-base aircraft services operation and the first company of its kind in Tanzania. Susan is also the first woman in Tanzania to hold both a FAA certified commercial pilot and an aircraft maintenance engineering qualification. This passionate aviator left Tanzania at the tender age of 19 to learn to fly jetliners in the United States, later returning home to help reshape African private air travel. Today, VIA Aviation provides logistical support for corporate, diplomatic and private jets. Her clients include heads of state, monarchs, Fortune 500 executives, celebrities, and military flights. VIA was the first company to offer such services in Tanzania and East Africa as a whole. Susan was honored by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2011.
Susan Mashibe’s Startup Story
There are not too many young 4 year old girls in the world who have a dream of a career in aviation and go on to launch a unique and highly successful technical and logistics company to support private jets in Africa - but the inspirational Susan Mashibe is one of those few!
A pivotal moment in Susan Mashibe’s life happened when she was just four years old, standing at the airport in Kigoma in Tanzania, holding her grandmother’s hand and watching as her parent’s plane took off. It was a poignant moment and one that Susan remembers clearly: "As the plane carrying my family took off, I did not cry. Rather, I wished I could fly the aircraft myself, so that my parents would not leave me behind ever again.".
That key moment was to change her life forever and was to take her on a journey from her childhood in Mwanza and Dar es Salaam, to studying at Western Michigan University and qualifying to eventually becoming Tanzania’s first female FAA-certified pilot and mechanic. However, that was not the end of the story, only the beginning of the next chapter to fulfilling her entrepreneurial destiny. In the summer of 2001, she had just received her pilot's license and was applying at Delta Air Lines Inc. when the terrible events of September 11th were to change the world, and aviation in particular. At that point, Susan abandoned her efforts to get a U.S. work permit and returned to Tanzania to build her aviation career in her home country.
When Susan was four years old, she remembers watching her parents take off in an airplane while she was left behind with her grandmother. “At that point, I decided if I knew how to fly, I would never be left behind again.”
It proved to be a life-changing move and today, Susan owns and operates VIA Aviation, a highly successful and unique aviation company founded in 2003, and specialising in providing world-class private jet handling and hangar services. Today, the company provides a wide range of aircraft handling, clearances and ground support, security and fuel in Dar es Salaam. Via Aviation generates revenue of over $2 million, and Susan has plans to expand the business to more than 20 countries throughout Africa. At Kilimanjaro International Airport, the company already has 80,000 square feet of hangar space. Susan's client list is able to boast Heads of State, monarchs, global corporate executives, and the military. The company is also now a multi-million dollar aviation business and highly regarded around the world. She has achieved all of this in an emerging and largely male-dominated industry in Africa, and her success is a testimony to the power of education, economic empowerment, and self belief. One of the key’s to Susan’s entrepreneurial success in life - she says she has no fear! Simply a deeply-held and long-standing passion for aircraft.
In 2002, Susan used all her savings to rent a small office in the Dar es Salaam airport to start her company, TanJet, which provided technical and logistical support to visiting private jets throughout Africa. Her first client was Jacob Zuma, currently president of South Africa, who was on a visit to Tanzania.
Not only is Susan Mashibe an amazing example of a women entrepreneur making great strides in breaking into the global aviation industry, but she is also inspiring and encouraging a new generation of women aviation across Africa and beyond.