A young pilot’s journey to her dream
Hearing that a 22-year-old girl is a pilot may be unbelievable, but Aiminath Adam, 22, born unto Male, is a co-pilot for Island Aviation Services (IAS) – the national airline of the Maldives. She is also the first female pilot who wears the veil.
Staying in one place quietly to even study had been a problem for her since childhood. She never desired to have A’s in all subjects, receive report cards from the stage with applause or win educational crowns or stars, -but if she was shown the diagram of an engine from her physics book, she was the first to fill it out in her class. Aminath said that her growing love for engineering had flamed her dreams of becoming a pilot. Another reason for her interest in the field is her father, who is an engineer by profession and this had enabled her to grow up being able to observe his work. Her father also was one of her greatest supporter in fulfilling her dream of becoming a pilot.
“My father was an inspiration. I used to call him whenever I had doubts about my lessons and he would always clarify for me. Eve when I was a kid, he used to answer all the questions; like, I would ask him what a carburettor is and he would still explain. His explanations slowly sparked my interest. I started wishing I could ride something with such huge engines. That was when I decided I would become a pilot, that planes would have the biggest engines,” she said.
Although flying in the air was her dream, the beginning was difficult for her. The first challenge was that her family did not want to allow her to work anywhere as she was a girl. After completing her O-Levels from Aminiya School in 2007, she applied to many places, asking for help to go study aviation. However, nobody responded then; they all said that this was too expensive a course. Aminath did not give up then. The only opportunity she found to become a pilot was to join the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) air-wing, but she did not do it either on her mother’s pleading.
“When I first told mother, she was not happy about it. Though my sister was working at MNDF, mother did not want her girls to work there. I felt really let down that day, cried a lot too, – but then thought that listening to my mother could bring me a better opportunity. I started looking for another job since then, but I always told my friends that I would become a pilot one day,” Aminath conveyed how she had almost diverted away from her dream.
She had no wish to waste a single day in her life even if she could not be a pilot. Working as a shop clerk, she started studying business administration part-time. After a year of studying, she changed her field of work to a company called Palm Glow, which sold chemicals to resorts. She started studying IT while she was working at the administration department of the company, but she had still not let go of her dream to become a pilot. He sister, Fathmath Inaala became her biggest support in making her dream come true. From all the work her sister kept doing to get a loan for her to go abroad for her studies, luck caught up with them then. It was a unique chance.
“Even then my sister worked hardest at availing a loan for my education. She knew I talked about my pilot dream with my friends. She knew how much I wanted to be a pilot. After much trying, sister came and told me one day that I could get a loan from her work place, UN Women, lets apply. She applied for me and they agreed to give me a loan. She tried really hard for it,” Aminath said.
The real hero in making Aminath’s lifelong dream come true was her sister. She believes that her sister Inaala deserves all the credit for the story of how she accomplished her dream.
“She kept on supporting me throughout the course. She always checks on me. She was the closest person to me during those days. I realised my lifelong dream because of her. She always had my back whenever I needed anything,” she explained.
Aminath began her voyage to achieve her dream from Sri Lanka in 2011, to do her IELTS before she left to study aviation. Staying with her brother who lives in Lanka, she passed in English Language, Mathematics and Physics enough to enrol at the university in a month’s time. When she left to Malaysia, she was determined to not return to the Maldives before she became a pilot. She said that she stayed at a hostel during her whole stay in Malaysia to reduce her expenses and ensure that she did not get distracted with anything else.
“I told my lecturer that I was there to ride airplanes in my first class itself. Every day that I attended the theory classes, I kept wondering when I would be able to fly a plane … I never believed for a minute that I couldn’t do this because I am a girl. I made it my ambition to do it. I didn’t want to waste this chance I got after so many years of trying. I knew I would succeed,” Aminath said.
Even during her studies in Malaysia, Aminath kept on searching for a local airline that would hire a young girl in the Maldives. She kept on repeatedly applying to IAS long before she completed her studies. When she returned after finishing her course, she still waited for the work opportunity from IAS. Though job opportunities were available from the famous Malaysian airline AirAsia, she did not approach them as she had the honourable aspiration to serve her own country.
“Not long after I returned from Malaysia, IAS called me up for interview. I was really excited that day. I went for the interview with great confidence, determined to get the job this time. Then I had to wait for their response after the interview. The day I got to work as a pilot is the happiest day in my life, till now! … I am most pleased for having the chance to serve my fellow Maldivians as a Maldivian woman. I wanted to work for IAS to serve my country in a diverse field like this, as a woman. This is also the greatest inspiration I have to climb higher in my career,” Aminath explained enthusiastically.
After having joined IAS to serve Maldives, she had also attended a month long course in Spain to get acquainted with the Dash-8 planes. She is now looking forward to get promoted in her career; to fly higher in her pilot’s career.
Her aim now is to achieve an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) so that she can fly planes like the Airbus and the Boeing, – planes that are bigger than the Dash-8 series she is now flying with her Commercial Pilot License (CPL). To achieve this, she now has to do comparatively little work; put 1500 hours of flying under her belt.
She has set her foot down on accomplishing this as well. She is flying the Maldivian skies, being an exemplar to Maldivian women and youth.
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