“Why did you choose to become a pilot?” I’m often posed with this question about joining an industry that’s largely considered to have a stratospheric glass ceiling. The answer lies in my love of breathtaking vistas that I experience through the cockpit windshield, the controls and gauges on the flight instrument panel, and my inherent ability to lead. When I was 15 years old, I was navigating my educational prospects when I met Captain Samir, one of my father’s relatives. We used to talk about flying for hours at a stretch and it was then that I found my true calling – becoming a pilot.
I started flying at the age of 19 in Spain, where I pursued my initial pilot license and began the Boeing 777 training course a year later. During this time, I struggled with continuing to pursue my dream despite feeling homesick. I graduated from Al Mawakeb School in Dubai and joined Emirates Airlines in November 2014 to become a pilot. Since November 2017, I’ve operated the iconic Boeing 777 to destinations such as Cairo, Mumbai, Delhi, Singapore and Kuwait City, proudly flying the UAE flag to over 60 cities around the world.
It has been a surreal journey – one that’s filled with highs and lows. Flying an aircraft also comes with great responsibility – of over 300 passengers and operating a machine that costs over $3 billion. The onus is on me to ensure the safety of the cabin crew and passengers every time I wear my uniform.
Carving out a career path in an industry that’s slowly seeing a surge of female pilots has been life-changing. I’ve met many wonderful people along the way, who have supported me and recognized my successes as their own. The people I work with make the journey worthwhile – after all, humans are the most integral part of the aviation chain. I fly with individuals from across the world and learn about their cultural vocabularies and experiences, which is priceless.
And as we navigate the good times at our workplace, we also collectively encounter the setbacks. Having been part of a sector that was majorly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, I witnessed how many international airports were closed, airplanes were parked, and some airlines and aircrew lost their jobs. It has been a trying time for everyone around the world and it was critical for us in aviation to support each other. We experienced comprehensive protocols every day, from having PCR tests on arrival to isolating after every flight.
I’d often be told that I’m lucky to be traveling during this time but I missed normalcy. Amidst the COVID-19 upheaval, I was glad to get the opportunity to operate cargo flights that were carrying medicines, masks and other medical supplies from different cities to, from and through Dubai. I found solace in having served my country and global citizens in the small way I could during this time.
Among my life’s greatest milestones is being invited by my alma mater, Al Mawakeb School, to give a speech about my journey of becoming a pilot to the students. This was such a fulfilling experience, as it helped me find my passion for public speaking. Since then, I’ve been working towards enhancing my skills and recently completed the Emirates Youth Leadership 2020 program.
I hope to inspire women not only in the UAE but across the world, and have been using my social media platforms to spark change. I’m also co-writing a book about leadership and building one’s speaking skills, which will be released soon. Through these various mediums, I wish to inspire, motivate and help the youth set and achieve their goals. Because if Nouf can do it, then so can you.
In addition to this, I enjoy playing volleyball at Al Wasl club in Dubai and run a home-based chocolate business called Noufy Truffy. I love making truffles and desserts and wanted to pursue my passion professionally. I’ve also been a volunteer at Expo 2020 Dubai, which I feel is an integral way of giving back to our country.
If you’re wondering how I strike a balance between these pursuits and my personal life, I’d say it’s all about time management and setting priorities, and it doesn’t feel tedious if it’s something you relish. I try to be productive and always take time out for a walk or journaling to recuperate. It’s these little things that can uplift your way of life.
Today and every day, I’m grateful to be an Emirati and consider it to be my duty to represent my country in the best way possible. It’s a great honor to walk international airports and earn the praise of my colleagues and industry leaders. For those who wish to follow in Amelia Earhart or my footsteps, I’d say don’t give up. We often create obstacles in our own way and if you have the will to work hard, you’re bound to soar high.
Follow Nouf on Instagram @Nouf.777