Local News

Sky's the limit for Maisa

February 6 - 12, 2008
Gulf Weekly Sky's the limit for Maisa

Gulf Air First Officer Maisa Mohammed Abdul Rahman Hazeem is flying high in the male-dominated world of aviation and is setting a model example to Bahraini girls aiming to achieve greater heights in their chosen careers.

The vivacious, friendly and charming, 28-year-old is the first and only Bahraini woman to reach the heady heights of a pilot with the premier national carrier.

She said: "My only advice to ambitious young women is that nothing is impossible. Just remain focused, patient and work hard ... as the sky really is the limit!"

Maisa is now assigned to the Airbus 320 and flies an average of 50-70 hours per month. She flies to Karachi, Bangalore, Athens, Istanbul, Damascus, Oman, Beirut and Mashad.

Recounting the experience of her first solo flight at a flying school in Doha just two years ago, she said: "There is no room for nervousness or fears. You don't use your bucket of luck but instead employ your training and knowledge to man the plane and after a while it just becomes routine."

She piloted her first commercial flight just 12 months ago and still feels a sense of accomplishment which is what drives her to perform her duties with great responsibility and pride.

"People think that a pilot's job is glamorous, flying off to different destinations but the reality is that most times we just see the inside of a hotel room.

"Another misconception is that we just sit in the cockpit while automation takes over the aeroplane but flying is demanding work and we have to follow endless checks and procedures to ensure the safety of the passengers," she states emphatically.

A former air traffic controller, Maisa used to sit in the tall tower and ensure the safety of aircraft taking off and landing at Bahrain's airport. She worked with the Civil Aviation Authority for almost two years before she discovered the opportunity to apply for the cadet training programme in 2004.

An Electronics Engineering graduate from the University of Bahrain, Maisa never imagined herself sitting in an aircraft cockpit and flying the metal bird above the clouds.

"But during my time as an air traffic controller I always appreciated when I heard a female pilot's voice crackle from the headphones. When I was growing up I marvelled at a pilot's job but I was of the opinion that aviation was not a place for a woman," the Isa Town resident says with a big smile.

After a stringent selection process for the cadet training programme only 12 applicants were selected from more than 400 applicants with Maisa being the only female among them.

She underwent a 20 month rigorous training programme at the flying school in Doha, Qatar. So being the only woman among the Bahraini trainees did she receive special treatment?

"Absolutely not, I was treated just like my male counterparts in academics and practical training. I had no special privileges except for separate sleeping quarters. There were times when it was difficult for me to blend in with the guys but I tried not to show any weakness. The pressure at the flying school was immense and everyone felt it. I didn't have a friend or a confidante whom I could talk to and was totally on my own which made it a little tough.

"Although there was a lot of hype surrounding the fact that I was the first and only Bahraini woman at the flying school I tried not to let that distract me because during our training programme there were constant evaluations and the trainees who didn't reach a certain standard were bumped off. So for me I had to really cross the rough sea before acknowledging that the hype was well worth it," she added.

She graduated in July 2006. After two months of training with Gulf Air in Bahrain, Maisa became the second officer in November 2006.

On January 25, 2007, she earned her two stripes and flew her first commercial flight as a first officer to Istanbul with a captain.

Maisa's family has been thoroughly supportive of her career decision and for them her interminable absences from home and peculiar work hours are simply part of her job. She has done her family proud and according to her had it not been for their encouragement she would not have scaled the ladder of success.

Maisa's father, Mohammed, is an ex-Gulf Air employee and her three brothers are all government employees.

Her youngest and only sister, Sara, 20, is studying aircraft engineering and looks up to her sister for inspiration.

The next step for Maisa is to gain enough flying experience to one day move into the captain's seat in the cockpit.

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