Afghan woman flying the world solo takes Emirates ‘plane’ for test drive

Emirates highlights female role models in aviation with a Boeing 777 simulator challenge

Shaesta Waiz, who was born in an Afghanistan refugee camp, hogged the limelight when she started her flight in a small single-engine plane from the US. Her mission is to fly around the world to inspire other women to follow their dream.

Recently she landed in Dubai and her attempt is to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.

Emirates recently hosted Waiz for a Boeing 777 simulator challenge in Dubai. Waiz, founder and pilot of Dreams Soar, Inc. (DSI), a non-profit organisation whose mission is to inspire and empower young females to become the next generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and aviation professionals, through a global outreach mission.

The outreach includes a global solo flight mission, where Waiz is piloting a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza A36 to circumnavigate the globe, a press release said.

Waiz stopped in Dubai, one of 34 stops across 18 countries in her five continent journey which will clock in just under 47,000 kilometres upon completion. 

Shaesta met Bakhita Al Muheiri, Emirates Boeing 777 First Officer, at the Emirates Aviation College to test her aerial skills in an Emirates Boeing 777 simulator.

24-year old Bakhita is one of Emirates’ youngest female Emirati pilots. She earned her wings in 2016 and has accumulated over 1,100 flying hours after completing the airline’s National Cadet Pilot Programme. After a short briefing, Shaesta and Bakhita began their simulator challenge in the Boeing 777 cockpit, taking-off, landing and piloting each assigned journey.

Adel Al Redha, executive vice president and chief operations officer, Emirates airline, said: “Through our National Cadet Pilot Programme, we want to grow the next generation of female pilots, by creating an environment that retains, nurtures and values them so they are able to progress and take a wider role within our industry. We also believe that one of the ways to support the need for pilots today is to tap into the female talent pool and inspire them to take their career path into aviation which is one of the most rewarding fields.”

Bakhita Al Muheiri also commented on the simulator experience with Shaesta: “I am truly inspired by Shaesta’s story. As the first civilian female pilot from Afghanistan, she has demonstrated that the world is full of possibilities and when we expose females to a wide range of careers in STEM and aviation we boost their interest to enter fast-moving sectors with a wealth of opportunities.”

Commenting on her twin engine Boeing 777 simulator challenge, Shaesta said: “An airplane doesn’t know if you are a girl or boy, what your religion or background is. It reacts based on the input of the pilot. My hope from the time I spent flying the Boeing 777 simulator with Bakhita, learning of her empowering story, and Emirates helping to pave the way for many more young women, is for more role models to devote their time and energy inspiring our next generation.  Let us work together and expend our resources to create brighter futures for our tomorrow.”

Later in the day, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority hosted Shaesta in Kidzania at Dubai Mall to speak to young girls and women about her experiences and the Dreams Soar project. Bakhita Al Muhairi and female cadets, Khalid Ali Al Mansoori and Maryam Yousuf Bin Ismail, also gave talks about their aviation journeys in an effort to inspire the young women in attendance.

Watch both pilots command the Boeing 777 simulator here:


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