Twenty-nine-year-old Afghan Female, Shaesta Waiz began her solo flight around the world and wants to become the first woman to complete a solo flight around the world, breaking gender barriers in aviation at time when women are not pilots in Afghanistan.
Weather permitting, Waiz will stop in 18 countries across five continents to complete the over 40,000 kilometre journey. She started the trip in Florida on Saturday.
Growing up, she started having an interest in aviation and started pursuing something that has never been done before. She became the first certified civilian female pilot from Afghanistan.
Shaesta Waiz said, “every time I open the door to an aircraft, I ask myself, ‘How did a girl with my background become so lucky?’ The truth is, anyone can be me.”
She also became the first person in her family to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “I believed my future consisted of getting married at a young age and starting a big family. It wasn’t until I found aviation that I started thinking about having a career and going to college.”
Waiz hopes to inspire a new generation of young women to consider careers in male-dominated technical fields like aviation and raise money for a scholarship. She hopes to meet with as many youngsters as possible along her route.
“When I see the young kids … they are shocked to see the airplane and touch it,” she said. “When they actually feel something and see something. That’s when they get excited.”
Waiz’s family fled to Richmond, Calif., at the height of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1987. She and her five sisters attended school in an underprivileged district, where she remembers not being able to finish her first novel until the tenth grade.
“I was a very shy girl. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself,” she said. “I didn’t speak English. I grew up speaking Farsi and Pachtun at home.”
Her first flight at age 18 was terrifying, she recalls. But once she felt the thrust kick in and the wheels leave the tarmac, she says she knew her future was in the skies.
“A lot of people in aviation have this moment when they discover it. It’s so magical. It’s amazing,” she said.
Waiz says she gets her inspiration from Ohio native Jerrie Mock, who became the first woman in 1964 to complete a solo flight around the world. Waiz says Mock broke gender barriers in aviation at a time when few women were pilots.