Paramedic qualifies as helicopter pilot

Loyiso Mpalantshane

EMERGENCY services in OR Tambo District Municipality are set to take off after one of their paramedics qualified as a helicopter pilot.

Xolisa Diko, 27, of Port St Johns, fulfilled a lifelong dream when he landed a four-seater helicopter at Mthatha Airport this week.

Diko obtained his pilot’s licence after completing six months of training at the Helicopter Charter and Training aviation school in Port Elizabeth. He has 27 hours of flying time.

It took him six months to complete the three-month course because of a shortage of funds.

He said he realised a helicopter service for patients was needed urgently in the district after experiencing first- hand the heavy toll poor roads take on patients being transported by ambulance.

“I noticed people were becoming paralysed … due to travelling on bad roads by ambulance. Ambulances can also not access rural areas due to bad roads, or they take longer to get there. This means people can die unnecessarily,” he said.

Diko believes his success should motivate young people to overcome the obstacles they face and achieve their dreams.

He is his family’s main breadwinner. His mother, who sells grass mats and crafts, said she “was over the moon” about her son’s achievement.

Diko said jokingly: “I am a poet, paramedic and now a pilot, so my friends call me ‘PPP’.”

He thanked local traditional chief Gwebindlala Mtirara, former councillor and Port St Johns businessman Ncoyini Nzamela, former provincial health MEC and the current chairman of the portfolio committee on health, Dr Bevan Goqwana, and the deputy president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry in King Sabata Dalindybeo Municipality, Harrold Kalala, for helping him achieve his dream.

Diko is planning to obtain a commercial pilot’s licence, for which he will be required to complete an additional 125 hours of flying, in July.

The chief instructor at Helicopter Charter and Training, John Huddleston, said Diko was a dedicated student who passed with flying colours.

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