Sydney Kawadza Senior Features Writer
The name Captain Matambanadzo Chakoreka may not ring a bell to anyone, especially ordinary Zimbabweans.
In the aviation sector, the captain is a legend who deserves all the applause as he is sending shockwaves in the Diaspora. Captain Chakoreka is not just a pilot, but he captains one of the world’s largest planes, the Airbus A380 at Emirates.
Naturally, he is excited to be in the cockpit of the gigantic metallic bird.
“It’s amazing. It flies very well. Wherever you go, its presence causes heads to turn. It encompasses technology, comfort and provides the pilot with a whole wealth of information,” Capt Chakoreka says.
This is a story about a Zimbabwean breaking new ground all over the world.
Emirates has 67 A380s in service with 73 new A380 aircraft on order while covering 35 A380 destinations across the world.
According to leading aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, the A380 is designed for the 21st century aviation industry and its unique size allows airlines to maximise their revenue potential through an optimised, segmented cabin – boosting their contribution to profit by up to 65 per cent per flight.
Airbus adds that the A380 has been winning over business and leisure passengers alike since its service introduction in 2007, providing levels of comfort and reliability that have led travellers to specifically request flights on Airbus’ 21st century flagship – which is in operation with carriers around the globe.
“The double-deck A380 is the world’s largest commercial aircraft flying today, with capacity to carry 544 passengers in a comfortable four-class configuration, and up to 853 in a single-class configuration that provides wider seats than its competitor,” Airbus says on its official website.
And Capt Chakoreka is a skipper on the Emirates Airbus fleet, specialising on the A380 having worked for the airline for the past nine years.
His has been a journey of hard work and prosperity.
“I trained at a private flying school on the outskirts of Harare located at Charles Prince Airport called Guthrie Aviation.
“On completion of my CPL (commercial pilot’s licence) jobs were hard to come by so I taught ground school for a couple of months until I landed my first job with a company called Bush Pilots,” the captain says.
“That was short lived because the company closed before I even got my first paycheck. A few months later in December, 1997, I got a job with Southern Cross Aviation based in Victoria Falls,” he says.
Capt Chakoreka, flew as a bush pilot for two years covering Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe, before joining the national airliner Air Zimbabwe as a second officer in 1999.
“That position was dissolved before I completed my training which paved the way for my position as a First Officer on the B737,” Capt Chakoreka says.
“I did that for four years then was promoted to Captain. I served as a Captain on the B737 for two years,” he says.
He joined Emirates as a First Officer on the A330 and served for five years then became Captain on the A330/340.
“Just under a year ago I moved onto the A380.”
Captain Chakoreka was born in Zambia.
His family moved back to Zimbabwe when he was four-years-old.
“In the mid-80s my father took on a job to work in Algeria, so I spent my school holidays in Algiers. The family however, returned to Zimbabwe in 1999,” he says.
The father of three, two girls and a boy, says his family is proud that he works for one of the world’s best airlines in the world.
While work and family commitments have limited his visits to Zimbabwe, the country holds a special place in Capt Chakoreka’s heart.
“On joining Emirates I used to visit Zimbabwe regularly because it was easier then, just me and my wife. Now with kids it requires more co-ordination with school holidays and also we were a bit homesick, but these days once or twice a year,” Capt Chakoreka says.
He also has fond memories of Zimbabwe.
“I think my days as a bush pilot stand out because of the places I got to see and experience in Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and Kariba.
“I remember tourists would marvel at how clear the sky was and the array of stars, the beauty of the sunsets in the national parks. I now understand what they meant,” he says.
Capt Chakoreka, who describes himself as a people person, however picks Uganda as his favourite place on earth.
“I love meeting different people in the country. They stand out as very warm, extremely kind-hearted people. Their Tilapia fish is divine and their fruits, especially the mangoes, are to die for,” he says.
“However, Dubai is an amazing city that is constantly growing and keeps trying new things. Expect to be wowed by innovation, creativity and always defying the ‘can’t’ syndrome or ‘it’s not possible.’”
Capt Chakoreka describes his experience working for Emirates as amazing and challenging considering that his knowledge prior to joining Emirates was limited to Southern Africa.
“My time at Emirates has been amazing in the sense that I have been and continuously get to see different countries, various cultures, flying modern aircraft.
“However, the learning curve was steep. Many things were new to me because of the environment I used to operate in. For example dealing with snow and ice, fog, accents and communicating predominantly via email. I was so used to phone calls or at least face-to-face,” he says.
Capt Chakoreka feels blessed to be working for the Emirates where his nationality has never been a hindrance or an obstacle to progress his career within the airline.
“The opportunities have been presented to me and it was up to me to take them if I wanted them. It’s a first choice because of what it offers.
“The aviation sector is riddled by company closures, redundancies and downsizing. Emirates is at the other end of the spectrum.
“It offers job security because of its great expansion agenda and because it is very profitable.
“It offers good timely career progression because of the future plans. Its route network is global, therefore flying is not monotonous,” he said.
Capt Chakoreka also believes Zimbabweans in the country and the Diaspora can also use the world’s fastest growing airline.
“Zimbabweans are now so spread out globally so flying Emirates for Zimbabweans is extremely beneficial because of the vast network that Emirates covers.
“Secondly transiting through Dubai is hassle-free because as Zimbabweans we don’t need transit visas compared to other hubs that we have had to use before,” he said.
He believes Zimbabweans can take advantage of Emirates’ network across the globe.
“They can choose England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada for Zimbabweans travelling from these countries going home on holidays as many have settled in these countries,” Capt Chakoreka says.
“For business people the Asian destinations are very popular such as Guangzhou, Beijing, Bangkok and Hong Kong as a lot of people are now engaged in buying and selling of goods since the prices are favourable in these areas.”
Emirates has serviced the Harare destination since 2012 and Capt Chakoreka believes the airline made the right business decision to fly to Zimbabwe.
“Emirates is a brand that catches people’s attention, so the benefits I believe are two-fold.
On the part of Emirates, it gives a wider choice for customers in the sense that it has a presence in the major cities of the world but it doesn’t stop there: it also covers other smaller cities.
“On the part of Zimbabwe the brand Emirates, brings global recognition to Zimbabwe and causes people to wonder ‘what’s in Zimbabwe that causes Emirates to fly there?’” he says.
Zimbabwe also is a world class tourist destination, according to Captain Chakoreka, and the wild-life is breath taking.
“The Hwange National Park and Gonarezhou are just a few of the national parks one can visit.
“Victoria Falls is a must-see attraction. It has so much wildlife, water sports (white water rafting), Great Zimbabwe ruins, Matopos Hills.
“The Matopo are balancing rocks that will leave you in awe as to how they stand.
“The lower Zambezi River in the Mana Pools area is also great. For art enthusiasts the stone carvings are worth taking a look at,” he says.
Capt Chakaroka spends a lot of time with his family when he is not handling the gigantic metal bird at work.
He tries to keep fit through jogging and walking when time permits.
The Airbus A380 Fact File
The A380 is 15 tonnes lighter than it would be if made entirely of metal.
The 4400m2 surface of the A380 is covered in three layers of paint weighing around 500kg.
During take-off the A380 wing will flex upwards by over 4m.
The air in the A380 cabin is changed every two minutes, and the temperature can be selected between 18 and 30 degrees.
An A380 takes off or lands every three minutes.
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