A Saudi woman has become the first licensed female pilot in the Kingdom.
Thirty-five-year-old Hanadi Al-Hindi , who had battled kidney problems, acquired licensing from the Jeddah-based General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to fly planes in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Hindi, who wears a headscarf, has begun flying small and wide-bodied luxury planes belonging to a fleet from the Kingdom Holding Company (KHC).
Khaled Al-Khaibary, a GACA spokesman, neither confirmed nor denied awarding the license to Al-Hindi, saying he would verify the information on Monday.
Al-Hindi, however, confirmed receipt of the license via telephone from the United States.
“Saudi women are capable of taking on any job previously held exclusively by men in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
Al-Hindi refused to divulge anymore information owing to contractual obligations and sensitivity surrounding the topic.
“I have, however, taken on a private initiative to counsel Saudi students in the US who are willing to pursue a career in aviation,” said Al-Hindi, who acquired a “Commercial Pilot’s License” (CPL) and an “Instrument Rating” (IR) from the Amman-based Mideast Aviation Academy in 2002. “Exciting opportunities await candidates in this field.”
Al-Hindi became the Kingdom’s first woman pilot after being hired by Kingdom Holding Company Chairman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. She became something of a celebrity after gaining her commercial pilot’s license way back in 2006.
Al-Hindi said that she was proud of herself and her family for supporting her in choosing this career.
Born and raised in Makkah, Al-Hindi faced opposition from her relatives after she decided to become a pilot.
Al-Hindi described her first solo flight in 2004 as the beginning of her dream career. “Two days after my solo flight, I discovered that my name was being mentioned all over the world and that I had become a celebrity,” she said in an earlier interview with Arab News.