Breaking Stereotypes: Meet Juju, a Saudi Arabian Air Pilot

Published July 1st, 2018 - 10:57 GMT
Juju Alrashed in the pilot seat, her dream come true
Juju Alrashed in the pilot seat, her dream come true

By Juju Alrashed

Flying is one of the most exciting, challenging, eye opening, mind expanding activities I can think of. I could go on and on, but you probably have gotten the point. Its a feeling which is difficult to express. I am not just talking about flying but being the pilot in command.

When you think of a female, let alone 'Saudi Arabian', “pilot" is certainly not the first word that comes to your mind.

I believe now is the time to shed light on my achievement as a pilot in the hope of inspiring other females not just in Saudi Arabia, but the Arab world.

As you can imagine it wasn't the easiest process I encountered. I had to convince my, at the time, skeptical parents about flying as a career for women. This is not to forget the somewhat conservative society we live in. To both, what I was doing sounded astounding. But my parents have always encouraged me to defy the odds. After seeing my passion and dedication they became very supportive.

With With my trainer

Aviation wasn't something I gradually built up on. But at the back of my mind I always wanted to be up there, flying an aeroplane. I dived right into it as soon as I graduated from high school in 2014. I wanted to explore my interests and innate talents that go beyond academic life and not mindlessly enrol straight into college.

I really didn't give it much thought, because ultimately things don't happen when you think too much about them.

Being the only female student at the Emirates Aviation Academy was somewhat of a challenge, discouraging at times, but I tried to see it as empowering.

Steps for PPL (private pilot license)

First decide which aircraft you wish to fly. I put my heart on flying a 172 Cessna. Student are trained on either the VFR (visual flight rules) or IFR (using instruments) or on both.

Then obtain the government-related documents. I had to obtain the following prior to being trained. These included an official airport pass, a GCAA Aeromedical check up and a Good Conduct Certificate. The last can be obtained from any police station.

From there, it was plane sailing. I successfully completed 150 hours of ground school training and then passed the academy and the GCAA’s final examinations as well as 40 hours of flight training. The whole process took about six months.

I did all my training at the Al Maktoum International Airport. In the beginning I flew in the training field, then and after a few flights I went beyond to fly atop the surrounding areas and enjoy the view from above of Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab. As you can imagine it was quite a challenge maintaining a straight and level flight with those surroundings while maintaining contact with the control tower.

My advice for aviation aspirers is to put hesitation aside and jump into what they're passionate about (after hardcore research of course!) no matter how outrageous or mainstream, and especially not to see society as an obstacle, because it is prone to change; what was then deviant is now the norm and vise versa… people’s opinions are liable to change and so are societies.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Al Bawaba.

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