A female pilot with Etihad Airways is making history by handling long haul flights in one of the world’s largest passenger aircraft. It’s an 868-passenger plane that is just as big as a building.
Hovering several thousand feet above the ground and crossing into different foreign airspaces in the cockpit of one of the world’s largest passenger aircraft is just another day at the office for Aisha Al Mansouri; a female senior officer with Etihad Airways — in many ways, one of the first and best of her kind.
Aisha flies the Airbus A380; a massive passenger aircraft that may be as close to a Zeppelin as an aircraft can get. Or as she describes it, an aircraft that feels like flying a small building.
The seed of her love affair with gigantic flying objects was first sowed when she accompanied her sister — who was already a pilot at the time — to an air show in Al Ain.
Fascinated by what she had seen at the show, the kid in her wanted to explore. And when she learned that a national cadet programme was opening at Etihad, she didn’t need a second invitation. Aisha decided to join the programme and eight months passed before she was hired.
During those eight months, she had done much of her training flying a Cessna 172. But once she got the chance to get in the cockpit of an actual passenger aircraft, she made the most of the opportunity — impressing alongside a co-pilot on her first flight on the job which was on an Airbus A320 that landed in Amman, Jordan.
What followed was five years of successfully steering the A320 and another couple of years on the bigger A330. Now, she’s making light work of the gigantic A380. The skillful pilot currently shuttles between medium to long haul destinations such as Sydney, New York, London, and Paris. And she’s making it look easy.
“When I started with the A380 I was in awe of its size. I trained beforehand in a simulator, but once you see the aircraft up close for yourself you realise the size of it — it’s like flying a small building,” Aisha tells Gulf News.
She goes on; “Flying the A380 is amazing, it’s a huge plane, but it handles like an A320, it reacts very well and is really enjoyable to fly.”
To her, the job has become more of a lifestyle than work and she was able to achieve this by getting the hang of managing the job accordingly and knowing how to handle all of the long haul flights and the many different time zones associated with it.
“The thing I try to concentrate on before I have long flights is to make sure that I am well rested, that’s the most important thing for me. The night flights are usually the tricky ones, for example, if I have to fly at 3 am, I have to basically sleep during the day or afternoon,” she says.
Basic professional practice stipulates that pilots must rest a minimum of 24 hours before flights. Aisha doesn’t joke with this particular injunction. Besides rest, she also stays in sharp by leading a healthy lifestyle. This she does by eating right and working out regularly.
As for the flights themselves, Aisha says her favourite part is the manual takeoffs and landings — “the real pilot business”. Advances in aviation technology mean that there is a lot of stuff pilots must master when it comes to state-of-the-art navigation systems and troubleshooting skills. But Aisha says the fun part for her is the hands-on, manual approach required for lift-off and landing.
Commenting on her role as a female senior officer, Aisha said she is happy to be a positive example for other women and young girls. She’s a proponent of the school of thought that women can be whatever they want to be. At least, that’s what she thinks her example reflects; that all women should follow a career path that inspires and makes them happy, and that all fields are accessible to women as long as those women really want it.
Aisha Al Mansouri is inspiring many young females in the UAE and teaching them to aspire for those fields that were once wrongly thought to be out of reach. To her, if the ambition and desire match the skill-set, anybody can literally touch the skies.
Featured Image Courtesy: gulfnews.com