Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Pilot Khalil to ‘SEE’: Women Encouragement during Flights Appealing

Sat 14 Dec 2019 | 04:44 AM
Gehan Aboella

Looking to sky may get you some relief or some thoughts. Perhaps watching stars would be a time out of your busy schedule or might get you in a relaxing mood. But looking to sky for her is very different.

Pilot “Dalal Osama Khalil” had a dream which came true and sent her upward to skies. She had wished to travel and visit as many countries in the world as possible. But she wanted to do this, not from a traveler seat but, from the pilot’s seat.

Opening the door for female pilots in the 1930s, late “Latifa ELNady” was the first female pilot in Egypt, who inspired other females to complete what she started, encouraging females to do this very important job.

Khalil is among very few females who drive Airbus 320. She is the third female pilot to join the ‘Egypt Air’ company.

She said, “At first, passengers were astonished when they learn that there is a female pilot who flies their aircraft, but after landing I find them putting hands together and clapping, I find all encouragement from females, where others would still be looking strangely to the matter”.

I took off with her and talked about her 20-year flying. She said that she has a record of 24 hours of flying that she registered for 20 years after finishing training in 1997.

She affirmed that experience is not about the number of years or the hours a pilot flies, but it is counted according to the model of the aircraft he flies as well as converting to larger and more modern models. She used to fly Airbus 340 and 330 and now she flies 320.

She is now waiting for the arrival of Airbus 320 (NEO), or ‘New Engine Operation’, a more modified model, in 2020. She said she would be also some modified Boeing aircraft next year under model Boeing 787.

I asked her whether every new model needs new training for pilots, she stressed that training is needed for every new model joining the service.

She spent 6 months in the training academy for ‘Egypt Air’ where they conduct simulations on flying for 8 hours across two days and face all possible expectations or surprises during the flight.

… And here is the full interview:

The start of the dream

How did you dream as a pilot and what steps you took to make it comes true?

I was very much in love with reading about flying and aviation, and I was clever in the science subjects at my school. I had this dream of flying aircraft but I never revealed it until I graduated. I then told this to my parents.

While my mother was very worried, my dad encouraged me and helped me to go to Embaba airport and practice sailing. That was the first level I trained. I then traveled to the US to study aviation and got the license and applied to “Egypt Air” at first chance available, where I and another girl were applying among 90 applicants.

I and “Rania ElSafty” (a colleague) were selected and they started training us until we were declared fit for flying ‘Egypt Air’ aircraft.

What are the characteristics needed for getting selected for the job?

The most important ones are self-confidence and properly grounded decision making because when a pilot makes a decision such as taking off or landing, it has to be irreversible. The potential pilot should have public knowledge and the skill of listening to others. All in addition to the love of flying.

How many female pilots are in Egypt and what is the reason behind their percentage compared to men?

We are 3 female pilots; I, Hasna’ Taimor and Heba Darwish. There are other 7 female co-pilots. Generally there are less female applying to the job because of the high cost of learning this profession and get prepared for applying to it. This job also needs a lot of reading and a lot of efforts to get prepared.

Anxiety times

What could possibly distract you during flying?

The pilot should all the time be focusing during the fly, as this job is a big responsibility. The pilot’s mind should all the time be conscious and aware of the temperature outside, map, engines and relating everything together.

The pilot should always be calculating possible expectations during the fly and never act on ad-hoc basis. That is including being aware, for the whole duration of the flight, of the nearest airport for emergency landing if needed.

For instance, I was flying to Japan during winter, and while I was in the middle of the trip, above Kazakhstan, I thought I needed to learn about the nearest airport for potential landing, because I knew that the airports in these countries were then closed because of bad weather.

When would you feel nervous during flying?

Well, I feel nervous the moment I get to know some passengers who are tired or sick while we don’t have a doctor on the plane.

Once I was flying to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and a pregnant woman was aboard. Surprisingly, she had the delivery pains and we then didn’t have any physician aboard. We, the crew, tried as much as possible to deal with this situation and I had to land in the nearest airport where the ambulance was waiting. Surprisingly, while she was getting moved, she delivered on the stairs of the aircraft.

Another time, I had a passenger aboard who had just been exposed to heart surgery. He didn’t acknowledge of this at the airport prior to taking off. Of course, he was negatively affected by the air pressure while we were flying. Accordingly, I decided to return back to Cairo airport to save his life.

Air turbulence:

How do you face the air turbulences which might happen because of the weather or a sudden disruption?

The pilot should always be in control over his nerves and maintaining calmness no matter what he/she faces. Often, we are aware of the possible turbulences that we would be facing during our flights. For instance, I currently fly the pilgrims back from Saudi Arabia, I knew about turbulences during the flight because of the hot weather and existence of intensive clouds and mountains. Generally, we pass all these and assure the passengers.

Why do passengers, during take off and landing, put their hands together for Egyptian pilots, whether a man or a woman?

Because the Egyptian pilot is more linked to passengers, that is, more aware of what they could possibly feel during every phase of the flight, and that’s why we calmly perform the take off and landing, and that experience is gained through practicing.

Is ‘sky driving’ easier than land driving?

For me, yes. I don’t like driving cars in crowded streets and long traffics. I prefer to use taxis instead. There is a strict discipline in the skies.