Hitler’s pilot helped Ghana’s women to fly

Afua Hirsch – Guardian – Tuesday, 17 April 2012 (originally published 15 Apr)

Lydia Wetsi at the controls of a plane
Lydia Wetsi, a disabled 16-year-old girl, takes the controls during a flying lesson. Image: Afua Hirsch/Guardian

It is the strange story of Hitler’s private pilot, a wandering English engineer and the first black woman – or woman of any race for that matter – to be qualified in building light planes.

In an inconspicuous clearing 30 miles east of Ghana‘s capital, Accra, a group of young women aged 16-20 are sliding shut the heavy metal doors of an airport hangar. They are students at AvTech, the Aviation and Technology Academy Ghana, a school with the unusual aim of bringing light aviation to impoverished rural Ghana.

The potential for light aircraft to play a role in development has long been recognised in Ghana. In 1962 independence leader Kwame Nkrumah founded sub-Saharan Africa‘s first flying school, after he formed an unlikely friendship with Hanna Reitsch, Hitler’s private pilot and a record-breaking aviation hero of wartime Nazi propaganda . . .

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