Dennis grew up in Arusha, Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world and where public schools struggle to deliver quality education. But between his loving, open-minded parents who impressed upon him the importance of studying, his voracious appetite for reading anything and everything he could lay his hands on, and the countless hours of watching American TV to improve his English, he ended up with a great education.
After finishing primary school, he was accepted into Ilboru secondary school, a selective state school for high achievers. His favorite subject year after year was physics because he loved understanding how things worked. Knowledge he knew one day he would be applying to his flight school training. He later completed his A level studies in Moshi at Majengo High. Sadly though, for many in Tanzania opportunities after secondary school are few and far between. Dennis’ parents weren’t able to afford the enormous costs of aviation school, but it never left his mind.
For as long as he can remember, Dennis was always fascinated with planes and their ability to float in the sky. When he was 12, his aunt knowing his love for planes, gifted him with a flight over the Serengeti National Park. He sat behind the pilot in a small 12-seater plane and feeling the deep joy of flying, he was forever hooked.
Dennis knew that his dream of becoming a pilot would be difficult to achieve and many of the people in his life had suggested he seek a profession that would be more profitable or easier to attain. But for him, his dream wasn’t about money or taking the easy path. He believed if he worked hard, he could do what he loved – flying.
With that in mind, he started working and saving money for his flight school. He’s worked at two different non-profit organizations serving the people and community around him.
After four years, Dennis nearly achieved his goal. He started pilot ground school for his Private Pilot License (PPL) earlier this year at the ZRP Flight School[JL1] in Zanzibar, Tanzania. He is currently half way through the program, and as can be expected, he has loved every minute of it! However, the course is expensive and to continue the program and the required flying hours, Dennis needs your help!
It’s no secret that to become a fully qualified airline pilot, it’s pretty darn expensive. Aviators coin the transition time from zero flight time to getting what’s called an ATPL (Air Transport Pilots License) as ‘zero to hero.’ An ATPL is the license needed to pilot a commercial aircraft. The total cost from ‘zero to hero’ can range anywhere from $110,00 to $145,000.
The next stage for Dennis is to complete his PPL program totaling $12,000USD (scroll down for details).
You may be asking why not get a bank loan or move to another country where the options are better? We wish it were that easy for Dennis! As a Tanzanian citizen, bank loans for something like pilot school don’t exist and the freedom to simply move to another country isn’t possible. As for aviation scholarships, they’re targeted towards University students. Continuing his education to college wasn’t an option. Instead he chose to work and successfully saved up to almost half of his tuition. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is! 
Read on to find out exactly how the funds will be used by Dennis on his path from ‘Zero to Hero’!!
MY STORY (by Dennis Mchaki)
It has long been my dream to become an International Commercial Pilot. For me, flying is the ultimate experience as it gives me the opportunity to soar with the birds. The first stage to achieving this goal is obtaining my Private Pilot License, which means I will be able to fly smaller planes before eventually going on to train in commercial piloting.
I was accepted to the ZRP Flight School earlier this year. This is a privately run school in Zanzibar that offers a comprehensive Private Pilot License programme. I started school in January, however due to lack of funds, I put it on hold so that I can return to Arusha and continue working in an attempt to save the remaining balance.
While I have worked hard since finishing secondary school, I have not been able to save enough money to pay the full cost of flight school. Currently, I have approximately half of the funds required for PPL school.
The course is divided into two sections.
1. Set up and Ground School: This part of the program is run by specialized teachers to ensure that students have the academic knowledge of flying, maintenance and other relevant areas of aviation. This includes 50 hours of training over a 4-month period, 9 official assessments, and numerous homework assignments.
The cost of this section is 1900USD.
2. Practical Flying: Each student must complete 40 hours of practical flying hours.
Each flying hour costs $250USD which totals at $10,000USD.
Through my hard work, I’ve been able to save $5000USD, which has paid for the Set-up and Ground School component of the course as well as 15 hours of practical flying.
The money raised will go towards the costs required for me to complete ground school training (such as rent and food) and the remaining 25 flying hours.
RENT (for one month in Zanzibar): $250USD in total
FOOD (for one month) $15USD/day for 30 days, approx. $450USD per month.
TRANSPORT to and from Zanzibar to attend flight school. $150 USD
FLYING HOURS x 25 hours $250USD/hour, for 25 hours $6250
I expect to finish my PPL training by mid-2018 at the latest. Following this, I will be seeking work with my Private Pilot License until I have enough experience to apply for a Commercial Piloting Internship with a respected airline. This internship will likely take around two years.
The first time I flew in a plane was thanks to my Aunty . She knew how much I loved planes, so when I was 15 she organised for me to fly out of Arusha and into the Serengeti with one of the small safari supply planes. The flight was only around 30 minutes, but it was everything I dreamed of and more. From that point onwards, I always saw myself siting at the pilots seat one day.
I was a committed student, which meant that I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Ilboru High School – a government school that only admits high performing students from the region. Following my O Levels, determined to follow my dreams of being a pilot, I undertook my A Levels, studying advance physics, maths and geography.
Aviation schools here in Tanzania (and further East Africa) are expensive. So when I finished my A levels, my parents were, understandably, unable to assist with the funds for me to train to be a pilot. Therefore, I put myself to work. Since high school, I have dedicated my time and efforts to working hard with various organizations, all with the focus of empowering local girls and women. I spent nearly five years working with the Shukuru Foundation, an organisation that empowers school aged girls from vulnerable backgrounds to pay for their own secondary school fees through small entrepreneurial projects. After my time with Shukuru, I began working with Sidai Maasai Women’s Organization, which is a social enterprise that supports Maasai women in achieving social and economical gains through the use of traditional artisanship.
I have worked diligently to ensure that I not only save as much towards the beginning of my flight school, but also gain enough knowledge, especially from the founders of the NGO’s where I worked who shared with me their dreams and vision through the work they started. I felt like I gained the platform to see first hand how important it is to strive to reach your goals in life.
I see myself enjoying every minute of the course and also for the first time doing what I have always envisioned myself doing. After the course I see myself taking even more steps towards accomplishing my flight passion by striving for a commercial license and making a living out of my passion.
I have been working since I left school to save money to take myself to school and achieve my goals to become a pilot. I have always been determined and passionate about this goal and have never given up.
Your donation will change my life because it means that I will be able to take my first step towards earning my first piloting license. I feel like this will be a stepping stone that will provide me with the capacity to achieving my dream.
Please read more about my school, my experiences and days on my blog:
DENNIS' FLYING BLOG
(Employer at Sidai Maasai Women Organization and Friend)
Dennis and I met in 2014, through a mutual friend of us in Arusha, Tanzania. After meeting Dennis, I soon learned that his dream was to become a pilot. When I asked him why he is not in pilot school, he explained that his parents wouldn't be able to pay for his school, and that he was determined to work so he could save enough money to send himself.
At the time of our meeting, his job at Shukuru was coming to an end, after several conversations, glowing recommendations from JoAnne, I decided to hire Dennis at our organization, Sidai Maasai Women Organization, a job creation program for Maasai Women. After a 3 months trial period and training, it quickly became apparent that Dennis has an incredible work ethic and attention to detail. We transitioned him into a Production Manager role, in which he excelled above expectations.
Dennis found a way to communicate with everyone, he is personable and warm. His work ethic and commitment is incredible. The best way to put it is that he just gets things done. He just knew exactly when, what and how things needed to happen to meet deadlines and nothing seems to faze him.
Dennis and I had so many discussions over the years just about everything, he has taught me a great deal about Tanzania, its culture and people.
I knew the day was coming when he left for pilot school and that day came too soon. But I know that his calm demeanor, his attention to detail, his commitment will make him an incredible pilot and. I miss working with him every day.
(Employer at Shukuru Foundation and Friend)
I initially met Dennis in 2008 when I first visited Tanzania while volunteering through an international program. In 2012, I moved to Tanzania after having started my own nonprofit, Shukuru. Dennis and I had remained friends over the years and soon enough I found myself turning to him for advice on all things Tanzania. This led to him volunteering for the organization all the while knowing his heart was always set on becoming a pilot.
Shukuru was a small organization with very limited resources, so when I offered to pay Dennis a salary, he refused. I’m not kidding!! He wanted to make sure the funds were going to the girls we were serving. Eventually he accepted a salary and soon after he moved into a management position having quickly proven his commitment to our mission, and equally gaining unanimous respect from the Shukuru girls, their families and the local government.
There are people who work together. And there are people who while working together become your rock. Your anchor. That is who Dennis was to me. Dennis was my voice of reason, my champion. He believed in Shukuru, our work, the Shukuru girls. Most importantly, he believed in me. And his tireless work proved that.
I know without a doubt that what Shukuru accomplished would not have been possible without Dennis. He’s incredibly humble but you will be hard-pressed to find someone who can navigate the English language and all its nuances so seamlessly as Dennis. To watch a young man step into leadership shoes while translating a well-intended exchange into a culturally-accepted conversation from English into the local language, Swahili. In a culture where girls are often overlooked, to build a positive rapport of mutual respect and dignity in a community that was inspired by an environment of learning, fun and accountability.
On a more personal level, Dennis has become and will always be one of my most trusted and truest friends in Tanzania. He knew Shukuru was my dream. His only intention was to help me fulfill it. When we parted ways, Dennis left me with something that I hope you will help us fulfill. He said, “Maybe one day you can help me live my dream as you have lived yours.“
Dennis believed in me and my work with Shukuru. Will you join me in believing in him and support his childhood dream? We have all pursued things we love and it was only possible because of the help from others.
A steadfast worker, a phenomenal friend and a remarkable human. Undoubtedly, Dennis will be an exceptional pilot. Aren’t these qualities you want in a pilot flying a plane you might be sitting in one day? ☺ Together, let’s please make that happen!
- Ramondo Seneres
- John Moore
- Liz Reece
- Matthew Falkowski
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