FE­MALE PI­LOT ON

29-year-old hopes to be­come youngest woman in his­tory to fly solo around the world

New Straits Times - - World -

MON­TREAL

AN AFGHAN pi­lot hop­ing to be­come the youngest woman in his­tory to com­plete a solo round-the-world flight was pre­par­ing Monday to start the Transat­lantic leg of her jour­ney.

Shaesta Waiz, 29, was born in a refugee camp at the end of the Soviet war in Afghanistan be­fore im­mi­grat­ing with her family to the United States in 1987.

There, she ob­tained her pi­lot’s li­cense, be­com­ing the youngest cer­ti­fied civil­ian fe­male pi­lot from Afghanistan.

Now she wants to share that sense of free­dom with other young women.

“When I found my pas­sion, fly­ing, that’s when I started to chal­lenge my­self. I started to read. I started to do better in maths. I started to look at the world dif­fer­ently, the sky dif­fer­ently,” Waiz said as she made a stopover here.

“What’s im­por­tant is find­ing your pas­sion and go­ing af­ter it.”

Waiz took off from Day­tona Beach, Florida, on Satur­day and has mapped out a route that will take her aboard her Beechcraft Bonanza A36 air­craft ap­prox­i­mately 25,800 to more than 18 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Spain, Egypt, In­dia, Sin­ga­pore and Aus­tralia, be­fore end­ing the trip back in Florida in August.

Dur­ing her 30 stopovers, the en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ate and the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ICAO), which is back­ing her trip, will host events to try to get school­child­ren in­ter­ested in sci­ence, no­tably aero­nau­tics.

Ac­cord­ing to ICAO figures, less than five per cent of com­mer­cial pi­lots are women.

“If you break it down into sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math and ex­plore what those ca­reer fields of­fer, it’s very ex­cit­ing,” Waiz said.

“We hope to present to the young kids at these events what those ca­reers are... and hope­fully get them to pur­sue these ca­reers that are in need of more tal­ent.

“Ev­ery time I open the door of an air­craft, I ask my­self, ‘How did a girl with my back­ground be­come so lucky? The truth is, any­one can be me,’” she said. AFP

AFP PIC

Shaesta Waiz, Afghanistan’s first fe­male cer­ti­fied civil­ian pi­lot, ar­riv­ing in Mon­treal, Canada, on Monday, on the third leg of her solo flight.

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