Introducing Trish Baloun, a Wilderness Air Namibia bush pilot. Her journey to this point has been a challenging one, but one in which she never lost focus.
As a young girl growing up in Canada, Trish always dreamed of following her father’s footsteps and becoming a pilot; particularly a pilot flying African safaris. Sadly her father had his licence revoked after his first heart attack when Trish was 12 years old and died just after her 25th birthday.
Growing up in a single income family forced Trish to start working from an early age to relieve financial pressure, as well as save for her private pilot’s licence. She worked in restaurants for a number of years and when she was 19 she was employed for the summer season by a road construction company as an equipment operator. Notably, as a female she was paid CAD$3 less per hour than the men doing the same job! However, this did not deter her from realising her dreams.
For a further three years Trish worked 10-hour days waitressing before she had finally saved enough money to complete her private pilot’s licence at the age of 22. The next hurdle: to save enough money for her commercial licence!
Trish was offered a job operating a floating fishing lodge as a deep sea fishing guide. With her great people skills all she needed was to learn to fish, which she achieved in just two weeks. Attaining her commercial ocean vessel operator license and operating a boat in the sea gained Trish a lot of experience in weather, navigation, engines, and decision-making. Sometimes she would be fishing 30 miles offshore with just two guests on board; this gave her the confidence of being able to manage on her own in any circumstance, even in emergency situations.
After four years, and with a little help from her mother, Trish was finally able to build her financial portfolio to a point that she had sufficient credit to take out a loan to complete her commercial pilot’s license. She was offered a flying position immediately in Northern Canada but sadly the company was not able to keep her in the air for long due to financial issues. While they waited for more flying opportunities she was made responsible for loading, fuelling and paperwork for all the aircraft. Unable to fulfil Trish’s wish to fly they eventually let her go to pursue her career as a pilot.
Through some aviation connections in Namibia, Trish was put in contact with Wilderness Air and six months later she was offered a position as a bush pilot. She has been working with them since early 2013. When people ask Trish what it is like to do a man’s job, her response is always this. “Women have been designing, building and flying airplanes for over 100 years. In fact, in the early 1900s women dominated the most extreme aerobatic aviation scene and are still major participants in aerobatic competitions, holding many world records.”
Trish feels much rewarded in her work as a pilot and loves being in the air. Though the road has been long and hard, she attributes her determination to her father. “One thing my father told me was to never let go of my dreams, and once you get there don’t forget to enjoy the ride. I never got to take him flying, but I know he would be proud.”