A high-flying woman pioneer in aviation services

Founder & Managing Director of VIA Aviation

Country: Tanzania

Sector: Aviation Services

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.

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Susan's Startup Story 

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 made her think that if she could only fly a plane herself, then her parents would not leave her behind 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....

Read more about Susan's startup story →

It is so inspiring to see the dreams of a very young girl growing up in Tanzania becoming a reality in later life, particularly when those dreams break the barriers to entry for a whole new generation of women in Africa’s aviation sector. She is living proof that women entrepreneurs can be gamechangers in the world. Susan Mashibe is truly a Lioness of Africa and an inspiration to so many young lionesses of the future. --- Melanie Hawken, LoA founder and editor-in-chief

Where did the passion for flying start?....

"When I was four years old, my parents and my younger siblings flew to Dar es Salaam, leaving me behind to stay with my grandmother. 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."

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.

Susan is an FAA certified commercial pilot and an aircraft maintenance engineer, the first Tanzanian woman with both qualifications.


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Awards & Accolades

Susan's recent awards and honours include:

  • 2013 - Susan receives the inaugural Initiative for Global Development (IGD) Jennifer Potter Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme
  • 2012 - Susan receives the Women4Africa Recognition Award
  • 2011 - Susan is nominated a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum 
  • 2011 - Susan is chosen as a Fortune Most Powerful Women Mentee 
  • 2009 - Susan receives the Tanzania women of Achievement Award 
  • 2009 - Susan is selected an Archbishop Tutu Fellow
  • Women in Aviation International Achievement Award