Saudi Women are Flying to New Heights
Women in Saudi Arabia are now flying higher than ever. Oxford Aviation Academy, located in the city of Dammam, will now be the first flight school to educate both men and women in the same aviation program.
Hundred of applications are pouring in from women all around the country, all-eager to start training in September 2018. While there have been a few female Saudi women working as pilots, none of them were trained in Saudi Arabia. The few Saudi female pilots have all been trained in other countries in the Middle East or the United States.
Hanadi Zakaria al-Hindi, 40, is the first Saudi woman to become a commercial airline pilot. Currently one of the few Saudi female pilots, she attended the Middle East Academy of Aviation in Jordan, graduating in 2005. However, she wasn’t officially able to pilot a plane for Saudi Arabia until 2017.
— Destination Jeddah (@DestinationJed) May 16, 2017
In an interview with the “Saudi Gazette,” the Oxford Aviation Academy’s MENA Region’s Director General and retired pilot Col. Othman Al-Mitairi stated, “The academy completely adheres the standards of the General Authority for Civil Aviation. Only 40 percent of pilots in the Saudi job market are Saudis and only two of them are women. We aspire to have 60,000 pilots and technicians over the next 20 years.”
The new program at the Oxford Aviation Academy will also feature an aircraft maintenance school and an international center for flight simulators.
This announcement comes less than one month after the ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia was lifted. Before the lifting the ban on June 24th, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that did not allow women to drive.
Approximately 2,000 driver licenses have been distributed to women since June 2018.
Nessren, a classroom trainer, training women to be safe drivers states, “Getting my license was for my comfort. I am strong. I can go anywhere. I’m a wife, a mother and a grandmother. There is no longer a need to wait around for my husband to take me places; he is a busy man, too.”
These two major steps for women have been part of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s plan to modernize and increasing economic growth in Saudi Arabia. However, there are still many laws that have limited women’s freedom, such as laws dictating clothing, healthcare, decision-making, competing in sports, getting a passport, opening a bank account, marring, and divorce.