Sky’s the limit as private pilot courses take off in Saudi Arabia

Some academies also offer training for the sport plane license, allowing you to fly a small sports aircraft with a maximum total payload of 600 kg including pilot and passenger. (Supplied)
Some academies also offer training for the sport plane license, allowing you to fly a small sports aircraft with a maximum total payload of 600 kg including pilot and passenger. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 18 September 2022

Sky’s the limit as private pilot courses take off in Saudi Arabia

Sky’s the limit as private pilot courses take off in Saudi Arabia
  • The proliferation of private aviation academies in the Kingdom has opened the way to obtain a license and fly for recreation

RIYADH: The phrase “private aviation” conjures up images of billionaires in Lear jets hopping between Monte Carlo and the Bahamas — but entry into this world is surprisingly affordable and accessible, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

The proliferation of private aviation academies in the Kingdom has opened the way for ordinary men and women to obtain a private pilot license (PPL) in a matter of a few months — allowing you to fly for sport and recreation with a couple of passengers, but not for commercial gain.

Capt. Abubakar Mohamed, the chief ground instructor at Rabigh Wings Aviation Academy located just north of Jeddah, explained the procedure.

“You need to be at minimum 17 years old, preferably with a high school diploma, and the first requirement is an English placement test, whereby you need to achieve at least four out of six levels.

“You need a criminal record check along with a medical test and a drugs test, which are conducted at certain specified clinics authorized by GACA.

“Once all that is OK, you’re registered on the private pilot course, entailing 60 hours of ground training — which is the theory aspect.”

HIGHLIGHT

The entire process of obtaining a private pilot licence takes three to four months, with a total cost of about SR60,000 ($16,000) including exam fees.

Then you are ready to take to the skies. There is a minimum of 35 hours of flight training, first with an instructor and then solo. Trainees learn how to take off and land on short and grass runways, and to fly at night. Other exercises include stalling and restarting your plane mid-air.

“The idea is to prepare you up to GACA standards,” Mohamed said, “because they are the ones that give you the final oral, written and practical exams and issue your license.

It’s not only about getting the license — it’s the journey, and that’s what you should enjoy. We have an expression in Arabic: ‘Flying with happiness.’ And we are literally flying with happiness!’

Capt. Islam Saeed Gwayed, Safety and training manager at the Saudi Aviation Club in Thamamah

The GACA written exam is a computer-based multiple-choice quiz, following which is the final GACA assessment of your piloting ability.

The entire process takes three to four months, with a total cost of about SR60,000 ($16,000) including exam fees.

You can choose to study the required information yourself, with online materials, and go directly to the GACA written exam. This is cheaper option but misses out on the immersive experience of a real classroom with a professional tutor — and the camaraderie of your fellow trainees.

Some academies also offer training for the sport plane license, allowing you to fly a small sports aircraft with a maximum total payload of 600 kg including pilot and passenger. This requires only 20 hours of monitored and solo flying time — but again lacks the in-depth immersion of the full PPL course.

Having passed your GACA written and practical exams you will be the proud holder of a PPL — allowing you fly a lightweight single-engine aircraft.

Other types of aircraft, for example seaplanes and twin-engine planes, require more advanced qualifications. Also, a PPL only allows for “visual flight rules” — meaning that you are not permitted to fly in conditions of low visibility. Piloting in heavily adverse weather requires an instrument rating, with extra training and exams.

While most trainees see the PPL as a stepping-stone to a career as a commercial pilot, many simply aspire to flying as a fun and adventurous weekend sport.

But Capt. Islam Saeed Gwayed, safety and training manager at the Saudi Aviation Club in Thamamah, just north of Riyadh, sees piloting as life-enhancing in several respects.

“First, when you are in control of an aircraft, you are 100 percent in the moment, and disconnected from all your everyday problems and stress.

“Second, it adds to a person’s leadership and decision-making. Flying a plane carries a big responsibility and everything comes down to you as a pilot.

“Third, you’re learning a lot — about weather conditions, meteorology, the landscape as well as all the technical aspects of the plane and how airports work. And when you're witnessing the world from a cockpit, it's a very different perception of reality.

“Finally, it's a hobby that can take you to another hobby — so if you want to play golf in Taif or scuba dive in Yanbu, you can just take your plane and go.”

Purchasing an aircraft does not have to set you back millions. Used sport planes (such as the four-seater Cessna Skyhawk 172) are available for as little as SR250,000 — with shared ownership making it even more affordable.

Mohamed recommends Saudi Arabia as a great place for private piloting, “because much of the airspace has relatively fewer restrictions than, say, London, where you have Heathrow, Stanstead, Gatwick and Luton airports, and all the military bases. Flying in and out can be a real challenge there, with so much air traffic.

“Here there is a wider choice of flight paths you can use. And this is a big country with a real variety of destinations. There’s nothing like viewing the Kingdom from the air.”

Gwayed has a word of advice for aspiring private pilots: “Enjoy it!”

“Some students say, ‘I want to finish the training, I need to get the license.’ But I tell them, ‘Just relax and take your time. You'll probably learn more because you won’t be so stressed about getting the actual qualification. It's not only about getting the license — it's the journey, and that’s what you should enjoy.’”

“We have an expression in Arabic: ‘Flying with happiness.’ And we are literally flying with happiness!”

 


Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen
Updated 28 November 2022

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen
  • AMF program to improve transparency in banking, financial and private sectors
  • Saudi Arabia has been lead donor to Yemen since 2001

RIYADH: Under the sponsorship of Saudi Arabia, the Arab Monetary Fund has signed a $1 billion agreement with the Yemeni government to revitalize its flagging economy.

The deal, signed in Riyadh, seeks to establish a comprehensive economic, financial and monetary reform program to improve governance and transparency, expand and diversify production and lower unemployment and poverty.

Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that the program will develop Yemen’s financial and banking sector, strengthen the role of the private sector and promote long-term economic development. 

The reform priorities for the government include developing public resources, controlling and rationalizing government spending, improving efficiency, and rehabilitating critical infrastructure in electricity, water and transport services. 

Priorities for the financial and banking sectors include developing a supervision system to improve transparency and accountability and bolstering services for small and medium businesses and youths and women in rural areas. It will also seek to boost digitalization and payment method flexibility.

The program says the private sector is a primary driver of sustainable economic growth, and key in paving the way for greater integration into the global economy, the flow of foreign investment, and the strengthening of international partnerships. 

The Yemeni government expressed interest in exploring opportunities for regional and international institutions to collaborate to support Yemeni economic reform. 

The agreement’s sponsorship by Saudi Arabia is an extension of the country's economic support for Yemen. The Kingdom gave the Central Bank of Yemen $1 billion in 2012 and $2 billion in 2018 to cover the import of basic food commodities. 

From 2001 to 2022, Saudi Arabia has led the list of donor countries to Yemen, providing 30 percent of total support.

 


Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh
  • Cooperation agreement signed to combat crime

RIYADH: Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Mahmoud Tawfiq in Riyadh on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

They discussed ways to improve security cooperation between their ministries. The talks also saw the signing of a cooperation agreement to combat crime.

Saudi attendees included Deputy Interior Minister Dr. Nasser bin Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Dr. Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al-Faleh, Interior Ministry Undersecretary for Security Affairs Mohammed bin Muhanna Al-Muhanna, and Public Security Director Mohammed Al-Bassami.

Egyptian attendees included Adel Al-Sayed Abdulaziz Jaafar, head of the National Security Agency, and officials from the Interior Ministry.

 


Sustainable development of Saudi island will boost economy

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
Updated 28 November 2022

Sustainable development of Saudi island will boost economy

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
  • Dr. Saad Dahlawi: 'The Kingdom is witnessing unprecedented economic and developmental growth and following the standards of sustainable development'

RIYADH: Economists and environmentalists say sustainable investment is important for an island north of Dammam allocated billions of riyals for development.

Experts told Arab News that the SR2.64 billion ($703 million) granted to Darin and Tarout island by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week has much potential to boost the Eastern Province’s economy.

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in the region, with evidence of 5,000 years of continuous human habitation and around a dozen heritage sites, including a fortress dating back hundreds of years.

Dr. Saad Dahlawi, Assistant Professor, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (L) and
Fahad Almutlaq, CEO of Sharqia Development Authority.

Officials aim to improve the quality of life for its 120,000 people while preserving its cultural and historical heritage, revitalizing its natural beauty sites and enhancing its tourism economy.

As much as 48 percent of its 32 sq. km area will be dedicated to public parks, waterfronts, roads, and facilities. The island hopes to boost the number of tourists to 1.36 million by 2030 and generate thousands of jobs.

HIGHLIGHT

Officials aim to improve the quality of life for its 120,000 people while preserving its cultural and historical heritage, revitalizing its natural beauty sites and enhancing its tourism economy.

“This project represents the first strategic works and initiatives done by the Eastern Region Development Authority,” said Eastern Province Development Authority CEO Fahad Al-Mutlaq.

He said that work would start next year on a program to gradually improve social and economic conditions after comprehensive studies were completed.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, a member of the Shura Council, said that the island had historical importance.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, member of the Saudi Economists Association and member of the Shoura Council (L) and Abdullah Al-Khuzam, member of the National Program for the Development of Handicrafts.

“Developing Darin Castle and Darin Airport as heritage tourist destinations will enhance the cultural side,” he said. “The establishment of the largest forest on the banks of the Gulf will contribute to enhancing the environmental goals of the Kingdom.

“If eco-hotels are developed in natural areas, this will be an important base for eco-tourism, which will support the economy of the island.”

Al-Buainain, who is also a member of the Saudi Economists Association, said that the development plan would make an important economic contribution to the region.

“Providing small and medium investment and employment opportunities will have an important socio-economic impact,” he said, adding that the development would contribute to achieving the goals of Vision 2030.

Dr. Saad Dahlawi, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Imam Abd al-Rahman bin Faisal University, said he believed that the development announcement came at the perfect time.

“The Kingdom is witnessing unprecedented economic and developmental growth and following the standards of sustainable development,” he said.

Dahlawi added however that project leaders needed to assess impacts on the environment and especially on marine life to ensure that endangered species are not put at further risk.

“Such a study would provide decision-makers with a clear picture of how to implement the project sustainably,” he said.

Dahlawi said it was important to follow international environmental standards, as well as the standards and requirements of the National Center for Environmental Compliance, to avoid any damage to the environment.

Abdullah Al-Khuzam, a member of The National Handicraft Development Program, said the intention to turn Darin Airport into a heritage museum “means that a new prosperity period is being written on one of the oldest inhabited islands in the Arabian Gulf.”

He said that the museum and planned art festivals would help present “our ancient culture and civilization to the world.”

 

 


University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness
Updated 28 November 2022

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness
  • The SFA is the main body responsible for promoting a healthy lifestyle in the Kingdom by providing sports activities

JEDDAH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation has signed a deal with the Arab Open University in Riyadh to cooperate on creating sports programs that will help build a healthy and active society.

Both organizations will also work together to promote sports culture and community sports to build a healthy lifestyle among the AOU’s students.

The federation will use the university’s sports facilities to launch initiatives and sports groups, organize community events and motivate students to take part.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal said the agreement was part of a strategy to work with partners and improve the health of the nation.

“We will also cooperate with the university in research, studies, data and statistics to attract a large number of university students to participate in sports and physical activities. This will help achieve our strategic objectives,” he said.

AOU Rector Ali Al-Shahrani said he was pleased to have signed the agreement.

“We seek to provide an integrated educational environment for our students by launching initiatives, sports events, and community programs within the university’s facilities. This agreement will help promote a sports culture among our students.

“We aim to provide multiple opportunities for people to participate in sports and physical activity in order to promote a healthy lifestyle and prevent diseases.”

The SFA is the main body responsible for promoting a healthy lifestyle in the Kingdom by providing sports activities. Its priorities are education, community, volunteering, fitness and health, campaigns, and promotions for people of all ages.

The AOU operates in nine Arab countries. It was founded in 1996 by Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz as a nonprofit institution and a nontraditional education academic entity. It focuses on scientific, social and cultural subjects.

In 2002, it worked with the Open University in the UK to transform into an integrated institution.

 


Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
  • RUSH event allows video-game aficionados to experience latest tech

RIYADH: The RUSH festival, the largest event for virtual sports and games, opened at the Riyadh Front on Saturday as part of the Riyadh Season of activities.

Over five days, it will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences.

They will get the chance to play real games such as “Fortnite,” “FIFA,” and “Valorant.” The event will also bring together the best international teams so that the biggest tournaments and direct qualifiers can be held on the e-sports stage.

Representatives of the 25 E-Sport organization greeted fans at the event’s meet-and-greet booth.

Aoun, the organization’s director of operations, told Arab News: “We have content makers and professional players in all games, and we came to meet the audience here.”

HIGHLIGHT

Over five days, the RUSH festival will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences. They will get the chance to play real games such as ‘Fortnite,’ ‘FIFA,’ and ‘Valorant.’

The festival aims to provide fun video games, competitions, and challenges through direct tournaments with prizes, and includes live entertainment shows, DJ performances, an augmented reality experience, and a cosplay competition.

The Valar Club booth was promoting e-sports for women.

Malak Al-Qahtani, founder of Valar Club, told Arab News: “Valar Club is the first licensed women’s club from the federation’s electronic sports, and our goal is to help female Saudi players, as they aspire to the world, and help with their training.”

Saudi YouTuber Pika Loli travelled from Jeddah to attend the event.

“This event brings together most of the YouTubers and gamers, and it is a good opportunity to get to know each other, and it will increase our followers and grow the channel on YouTube.”

Some of the cosplayers were dressed as video game characters.

Abdulelah Al-Qahtani said: “Today we are dressed as characters from the ‘Genshin Impact’ game, and I think this is so good that Saudi Arabia brought up a hidden community, like cosplayers and gamers.”

With a focus on the whole of the gaming industry, from console and PC gaming to mobile and e-sports, the RUSH festival aims to give gaming aficionados the opportunity to access and experience the latest tech and the chance to interact with each other in real life, and online.

Tickets for the event are available via https://riyadhseason.sa/event-details-en.html?id=599/en_RUSH.