Saudi aviation academy to train first women pilots

PA-28 Warrior II of Oxford Aviation Academy at Tucson International Airport. (File photo: Wikipedija)
Updated 17 July 2018
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Saudi aviation academy to train first women pilots

DAMMAM: A flight school in Saudi Arabia is opening its doors for women, following the end of a decades-long driving ban in the deeply conservative Muslim country where many social restrictions are easing.
Oxford Aviation Academy, a leading trainer and crew recruiter, has already received applications from hundreds of women hoping to start lessons in September at a new branch in the eastern city of Dammam.
“People used to travel abroad (to study aviation), which was difficult for women more than men,” said applicant Dalia Yashar, who aspires to work as a civil pilot.
“We are no longer living in the era were women were allowed (to work) in limited arenas. All avenues are now opened for women. If you have the appetite, you have the ability,” she said.
The academy is part of a $300 million project that includes a school for aircraft maintenance and an international center for flight simulators at the airport.
Students receive three years of academic and practical training, said executive director Othman Al-Moutairy.
A decades-long ban on women driving was lifted last month, as part of sweeping reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at transforming the economy and opening up its cloistered society.
The lifting of the prohibition was welcomed by Western allies as proof of a new progressive trend in Saudi Arabia, but it has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including against some of the very activists who previously campaigned against the ban.


Formula E drivers ‘enjoy’ Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage

Updated 31 min 40 sec ago
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Formula E drivers ‘enjoy’ Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage

  • Formula E drivers explored Saudi Arabia and the local community
  • After visiting the UNESCO World Site of Ad Diriyah which is home to the new race track, drivers also visited Masmak Fort

Formula E drivers explored Saudi Arabia and the local community as the 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix festivities took place.

After visiting the UNESCO World Site of Ad Diriyah which is home to the new race track, drivers also visited Masmak Fort, built in 1865.

Oliver Turvey, from the United Kingdom was part of a trio of drivers from team NIO who on Thursday took the opportunity to learn more about the fort’s heritage and history. He also took the time to look ahead to the big race, which makes Formula E’s debut in the Middle East. 

“I am really enjoying being here in a different culture. We want to show that electric cars are fast and strong,” he said. 

Teammate Tom Dilmann was already anticipating Saturday’s action.

“The track looks exciting, I’m really looking forward to it and am very excited for the race. Showing that we can race electric cars in the city, the future is here,” he said.

Jammy Chadwick, also from the UK, will be part of racing history in Saudi Arabia when she joins several other women on the starting grid of a ‘Rookie Test’ to discover new Formula E talent.

“This will be my first proper official test this Sunday, it’s a huge opportunity for me to learn and try the experience. It’s a positive message to have female drivers competing for the first time in Saudi, it sends a clear message of welcoming to everyone,” she said.

It was back to the future for drivers from the Mahindra Racing as they warmed up for the big race of Saturday taking on local competition, in the form of excited school children, at the Doos Karting Track in Riyadh.

They were cheered on by Prince Khalid bin Sultan, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, who joined the fun.

Jerome d'Ambrosio, Felix Rosenqvist and Nick Heidfeld were put through their paces by children from King Faisal elementary and Trbiyah Namouthajiyah Schools.

Noura AL Shebani, 12, and Fahad Al Shenefi, 8, had the “time of their lives” racing against the Formula E drivers.

“If I had a little bit more time I could have won,” Noura told the race drivers after the race.

Belgian racer Jerome d’Ambrosio said: “We always have a wonderful and fun time karting. It reminds us of when we were young. Karting is almost how all racing drivers start, and we enjoy every opportunity like this one to just have fun.”

Meanwhile, Swedish driver Rosenqvist loved that the go-karts were electric, in keeping with the rather much bigger race about to unfold on Saturday.

He said: “Even at this level you can feel the instant power when coming out of a turn unlike Go Karts with combustion engines. It’s also better because when you can have indoor tracks which are very convenient in Saudi.”