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Ghada Al Rousi is Air Arabia’s first female pilot and a genuine inspiration

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Becoming Air Arabia’s first female pilot might not be on most people’s career prospects, but Ghada Al Rousi is not most people.

Not that it’s always been part of her plans.

Ghada Al Rousi, Alpha Aviation Academy graduate and Air Arabia First Officer started her path in life by studying Tourism Management in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and before aviation she worked for one of the government ministries.

“Piloting was not something I was dreaming of when I was a child,” she freely admits. However, Ghada is now extremely proud to be the first female Emirati to have a MPL licence, but she also hopes she can be an inspiration to other women considering a career in piloting.

“The most important thing to remember is that being a good pilot doesn’t depend on being a woman or man. What matters is how much you love your job and how hard you are willing to work.”

She flies with both male and female pilots and the most important thing, in her view, is their professionalism, not their gender.

“The same rule applies for any career, whether it be a pilot or another profession in a male dominated environment, for example, another STEM-based career,” she says, “As long as you believe in yourself, are confident, and are willing to work hard, you can succeed.”

For a woman in a male-dominated industry, Ghada has had a lot of support.

“Some people are so happy about it and proud, asking me about my experiences. Some people in the beginning said ‘What?! A woman becoming a pilot?! This is man’s job! I won’t get in the plane with you!’”

But she reassures me that these people are very much in the minority. “If you believe in yourself, you can do this job, irrespective of gender.”

The desire for becoming a pilot came a few years ago, it seems.

“The first time I entered a cockpit,” she shares, “I just had a sense that I could do this – become a pilot.”

As soon as she realised this, starting a pilot training course became her new ambition.

After considering the different options available, Al Rousi settled on Alpha Aviation Academy in Sharjah, because they offered the training programme she wanted: the Air Arabia Multi-Crew Pilots License (MPL) programme.

For the entry requirements, she was assessed in English, maths, physics, motor skills and also had to take a psychometric test. She also sat an Aeronautical Medical exam and the end of the assessment had a personal interview with the management.

Once she had sat and passed the exams and interviews, she was accepted and started her training.

Al Rousi says that although there weren’t any setbacks, the training was tough. In her view, the hardest part of her career has been to complete her training and become First Officer.

“Now that this part is done I'm looking forward for new exciting challenges,” she shares, “I learnt so many lessons.”

She also admits that her course was incredibly hard at the beginning:

“I knew there were a lot of people waiting for me to finish and to pass, and not to be behind with my course. So I had to focus a lot.”

She also had to be away from her family for a while when she did the basic flight training in Greece.

As part of her course, Al Rousi also had to participate in ground school, learning subjects relevant to future aviators, like aerodynamics and map making.

Her work became so much at that time that she would go home and continue studying, without being able to see her family for days on end.

“With the ground school, I was not used to so much information in such a short time. The programme is not easy, but I was doing my best. I was studying a lot and constantly thinking that I had to pass.”

After a gruelling 18 months at Alpha Aviation, Ghada hoped to spend some time at home, but the academy and Air Arabia asked her to take part in their marketing activities.

She had to go to Bahrain for a media event, and then to Dubai Air Show after that.

There wasn’t much time between her finishing the course and starting her flying career. A few weeks after receiving her licence, Ghada was up in the air.

Since then, her experience has been amazing: “When you enter the cockpit, you don’t think about anything else in the world. You are just thinking about your flight. It doesn’t matter what mood you are in, because, for a few hours you enter a different world, where you only think about what you’re doing.”

In her experience, she’s been lucky that her job has enabled me to travel to many places. She flies the Airbus A320, which seats between 150 and 180 people. Air Arabia offers a lot of destinations, and she has been to places like Moscow, Bombay, Pakistan, Nairobi, Alexandria, Istanbul, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Regarding her plans for the future, she says she wants to be a captain, but the road to that title is even longer than her initial course. To become a captain, you must first be a Senior Officer. She’s also thinking of trying her hand as an instructor further on.

“You never jump positions though. I need more experience, I need more hours, and I need to make sure that I am ready to be a Captain. So I just need to work up one step at a time.”

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