First Saudi female pilot on her dream to fly airliners

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First Saudi female pilot on her dream to fly airliners

Hanadi Zakaria Al Hindi

Saudi Arabia’s first female pilot has said she is looking for a job as an airline captain in the Middle East after flying for the one of the world’s wealthiest businessmen.

Hanadi Zakaria Al Hindi said it is her dream to pilot commercial aircraft after making history by becoming the first woman in her country to get a flying licence ten years ago.

The 37-year-old has worked for Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – who made global headlines when he bought and customised an A380 superjumbo – since then, flying aircraft in his company’s fleet.

The prince, one of the world’s richest men, has spoken of his efforts to support women’s education and sponsored her training.

Al Hindi is believed to be one of just two Saudi women to hold flying licences – yet cannot drive under the kingdom’s Conservative laws.

“I miss the cockpit very much; my passion is to keep flying – it’s my dream to be a commercial pilot”, Al Hindi told 7DAYS during a visit to the Airport Show in Dubai this week.

She was attending the Arab Women in Aviation forum, which brought together pilots from across the world.

Asked whether she’d consider a position with a UAE airline such as Emirates or Etihad, Al Hindi said she is open to all opportunities, but would ideally fly for the national carrier Saudia.

She said: “I’m still struggling. It took me so much time to get approved by the government in Saudi Arabia and now I’m struggling to get a job in Saudia.”

Al Hindi said she owes her success to Saudi business magnate Prince Al Waleed, who she said supported her from the beginning.

“He was my biggest supporter, after my father. I owe him a lot and dedicate my success to him,” she said.

Al Hindi said she is aware of the irony of being able to fly but not drive – Saudi is the only country in the world to ban women from being behind the wheel – but said she does not feel it has held her back.

“It’s better to have a driver – you don’t have to go through all the headaches to be somewhere and find parking,” she joked.

“Flying airplanes is a profession. Driving cars are not the biggest issue [for women] in the country.”

Al Hindi said she had almost given up on her dream to become a commercial pilot after leaving the prince’s private fleet, but in the course of this week’s event, her passion for flying came back.

“This event comes at just the right time,” Al Hindi said. “I was almost changing my path, but the forum made me realise my passion is flying. I just need to fly. Pioneers face many challenges and obstacles, but we are paving the way for future generations,” she said.

“We have to be strong and follow our dreams because there are no boundaries. There’s no difference between men and women everywhere, not only in the Arab world.”

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