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)
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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!”

 


KSRelief launches aid campaigns in Lebanon and Jordan

KSRelief launches aid campaigns in Lebanon and Jordan
Updated 03 October 2022

KSRelief launches aid campaigns in Lebanon and Jordan

KSRelief launches aid campaigns in Lebanon and Jordan
  • The relief items, which were distributed on Saturday, benefited 1,570 people in the Beqaa region

DUBAI: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) distributed 314 food baskets to Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s West Bekaa region. 
The relief items, which were distributed on Saturday, benefited 1,570 people in the area. 
Meanwhile, the aid center concluded its 11th and 12th volunteer programs in the Zaatari refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan. 
The initiative saw 26 volunteers from different medical, psychological, social, and educational backgrounds offering their expertise to people in-need. 
They offered training courses to 236 people, educational programs to 185 people, computer maintenance to 194 people, first aid services to 430 people, and psychological counseling to 260 people. 
Medical services offered during the visit benefitted 29 patients in heart clinics for children, 184 people in the dermatology department, and 75 patients in-need of physiotherapy treatment.


KSrelief’s Masam project dismantles 947 mines across Yemen in one week

KSrelief’s Masam project dismantles 947 mines across Yemen in one week
Updated 03 October 2022

KSrelief’s Masam project dismantles 947 mines across Yemen in one week

KSrelief’s Masam project dismantles 947 mines across Yemen in one week
  • During September, a total of 3,815 mines were removed

Riyadh: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) “Masam” dismantled 947 mines this past week, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Sunday. 

During September, a total of 3,815 mines were removed, which brings the total number of mines that were cleared since the beginning of the “Masam” project to 360,573.

The mines – planted by the Houthi militia in various Yemeni regions – included three anti-personnel mines, 412 anti-tank mines, 515 unexploded artillery, and 17 explosive devices, according to SPA. 

Masam’s team cleared 76 anti-tank mines, 144 unexploded artillery, and 13 explosive devices in Aden. 

In the Hays District 14 anti-tank mines, one anti-personnel mine, 17 unexploded ammunition, and one explosive charge were discovered, while in the Hodeidah Governorate four anti-tank mines were cleared. 

Meanwhile, four unexploded ammunitions were discovered in the Lahj governorate.

In Marib, the team cleared 287 anti-tank mines, 287 unexploded ordnance. Two explosive devices were also cleared in Harib, while two anti-personnel mines and one unexploded ordnance was uncovered in the Raghwan district.

The Masam team dismantled 12 anti-tank mines in Shabwa, as well as 12 unexploded ordnances in Ayn, and one anti-tank mine and one unexploded ammunition in Usaylan. 

The team also removed three unexploded ordnances in Taiz, one explosive device in the Al-Wazi’iyah district, nine unexploded ordnances in the Mawza district, 17 anti-tank mines, and 37 unexploded ordnances in the Thubab district.


Saudi National Center for Wildlife reveals species protected from hunting

Saudi National Center for Wildlife reveals species protected from hunting
Updated 03 October 2022

Saudi National Center for Wildlife reveals species protected from hunting

Saudi National Center for Wildlife reveals species protected from hunting

MAKKAH: The Saudi National Center for Wildlife revealed types of wildlife officially and permanently protected from hunting.

The NCW presented an infographic pointing out Article 4 of the Executive Regulations for Wildlife Hunting, which prohibits hunting predators such as the Arabian leopard, hyenas, wolves, jackals, lynxes, sand cats, common genets, and honey badgers.

Hunting endemic birds in the Kingdom is also prohibited, in addition to ungulates, including the Arabian oryx, the sandy-colored goitered antelope, the mountain gazelle (whether found in mountains or on the Farasan Islands), and the Nubian ibex.

“NCW has developed a hunting system which has been globally praised by environmental authorities,” stated Dr. Mohammed bin Yaslam Shobrak, a bird and wildlife expert, who stressed “it is a special and organized system designed to protect and maintain the balance of the environment.

“This system takes into account the sustainability of the endangered species. The development of the system is based on four main pillars to contribute to the development of the hunting control standards,” he told Arab News.

He stated that the first pillar is the Shariah law, as the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah prohibit the hunting of hoopoes and typical shrikes, as well as hunting in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. 

“The Prophet Muhammad has also prohibited taking baby birds from their nest when he witnessed a lark flying over his head and asked: ‘Who grieved this for its young ones? Return its young ones to it.’ He believes that taking baby birds and eggs away is harmful to the mother,” Shobrak said. 

“In addition, Islam forbids burning animals, even if they were predators which have caused harm to citizens. Regardless, this does not legalize hunting, burning, and wiping out such species, including those distributed in limited geographical areas where hunting might lead to their extinction,” he added.

Shobrak added that scientific research and specialized academic studies constitute the second pillar of the system. He said that the list is based on research presenting the endangered species of animals and birds, which are also listed under the global Red List specifying the close-to-extinction species. 

“Therefore, it is essential to exert all the required efforts to (prevent) their extinction. I wonder why people are still hunting some species when it has, later on, backfired at them. Not only this, but it has also disrupted the ecosystem balance,” he said. 

“Hunting predators, such as tigers, hyenas, and wolves, has allowed other animals to expand their area, such as monkeys, which are currently causing environmental issues requiring utmost emergency, as they constitute a direct threat to farms and properties. In addition, they have become a diseases spreading tool,” he added. 

According to Shobrak, the third pillar is what comes under the international treaties and memoranda of understanding signed by the Kingdom.

Shobrak added that the fourth pillar relies on protecting human beings and their properties through the publications made by the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Water in relation with the species prohibited from being hunted, which may negatively affect the country and its citizens. 

“The ministry and NCW have exerted great efforts to preserve the environment — the Kingdom is witnessing comprehensive and complete development shifts at all levels through the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

“We aim to render the Kingdom a role model for all the countries in this concern. The applicable laws should be an example and a proof of the greatness of the Kingdom in all fields.”

He said that some people still violate the regulations by hunting with nets, where some animals suffocate to be later sold and consumed. Some sell animals alive and transport them to other regions. 

“Major environmental problems arise (as a result of these activities) which will require large sums of money to be solved. The most accurate example is that of monkeys in the southeast of Riyadh, namely in the Dirab area, home of house crows. These monkeys are native to India and expanded to reach other regions worldwide. Even here, in the Kingdom, monkeys are spreading across the majority of the coastal cities, and wiping them out will cost us large sums of money,” he concluded.


AlUla Wellness Festival invites the world to find peace within

AlUla Wellness Festival invites the world to find peace within
Updated 03 October 2022

AlUla Wellness Festival invites the world to find peace within

AlUla Wellness Festival invites the world to find peace within
  • The festival offers a variety of sessions for people to try different things, focusing on offering mental and physical well-being

ALULA: The mystical land of AlUla has become a major attraction for wellness-seekers, with AlUla Wellness Festival 2022 in full swing.

The festival offers a variety of sessions for people to try different things, focusing on offering mental and physical well-being.

Khalid Nahfawi, a yoga and meditation instructor and sound healer at the festival, told Arab News he discovered yoga in India. “Yoga was my first introduction to meditation — yoga being the pillar of meditation, it helps you go into a meditative state,” he said. 

“When I went to India, I just practiced it, and I noticed that it is really helping to calm me down, and one thing led to another, and now I am a certified instructor.”

Nahfawi added that people who have never meditated will never understand what it feels like until they try it. “It is like trying to explain the taste of sugar to an alien,” he said.

The festival was established so that visitors would feel peace, with the sound of running water and calm music enveloping them. Greenery, pleasing to the eye, sprouted from the velvety AlUla sands, and the architecture was soft and homely; there were no harsh buildings, with wood being the dominant element.

The Five Senses Sanctuary returned for its second edition, and Nahfawi said it featured a rich program of talented instructors and practitioners. “I highly encourage everyone to come and visit and experience for themselves,” he added.

For a more peculiar kind of meditation, sound-healer Valentina Adveeva sat on the roof of a building with a circular musical instrument, a handpan, played with just one finger.

The echoing music it produced helped attendees connect to one another and create music in harmony. Adveeva said that the handpan is a very young instrument, and when played it creates the same frequency as water and the heart.

“When you play with this instrument you will release your feelings and your emotions and feel very open — it doesn’t need to be just for meditation, you can just play it because of the music,” she said.

“You are focused on yourself, you enjoy the harmony, you are just enjoying your life, and in general you are okay. That is what we aim for in meditation.”

Valentina Adveeva taught the visitors how to play the handpan instrument. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Binshalhoub)

Another workshop that stood out was a spoken word session that brought together three types of art forms: Music, dancing, and poetry.

Raghad Fatahadeen wrote the poems and then read them to an audience while her friend Bilal Allaf performed an elaborate interpretive dance.

The poems talked about the meaning of life, finding your place in the world, and much more as Allaf encapsulated the emotions being conveyed rather than the words that were being spoken.

Fatahadeen said: “I wouldn’t say it is a coincidence — because nothing is a coincidence — but that is what it felt like to me. The pieces that I wrote didn’t go through the process of writing. I did not sit down and write. It just came to me; I felt like I received it.”

She then shared the poetry with her friend Allaf, and he volunteered to perform and dance for each one. When others heard them, they went silent, pushing the pair to work together and share with more people.

Raghad Fatahadeen wrote poems and then read them to an audience while her friend Bilal Allaf performed an elaborate interpretive dance. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Binshalhoub)

“We connect to things differently; sometimes words might be too heavy for people, maybe it is something you haven’t heard before,” Fatahadeen said. “Maybe if the words are too complicated, you can still listen to the music and feel something or look at the moves.

“Bringing that together makes for a holistic experience. We are trying to create a space for people that will invite people to reach into a specific state and connect on a higher level.”

Five Senses Sanctuary will keep its gates open for visitors until Oct. 8, with the festival continuing until Oct. 16.


Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability
Updated 02 October 2022

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability
  • Expert emphasizes the importance of teaching coffee farming to the next generation

JAZAN: The second day of the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum welcomed some of the Kingdom’s experts in medicine, research and agriculture to shed light on Saudi Arabia’s expanding coffee industry.

Organized by the Ministry of Culture and held at the Grand Millennium Jazan, the second day of the forum took a deeper look into joint cooperation in the agricultural sector as well as the positive and negative effects of caffeine.

During the first session, the panelists highlighted ways to promote research cooperation on a global basis and the current obstacles faced within the local coffee industry limiting international progress.

The speakers highlighted the important role the government and research agencies can play in the coffee sector. They also covered the specifics of farming coffee such as the types of beans, climate conditions, and the growing customer demand.

Bandar Al-Fifi, director of the National Coffee Component Food and Agriculture Organization, said: “Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide, and the average daily consumption of coffee is increasing year after year. The consumption of coffee (is) increasing worldwide and with it so is this demand.”

He stressed that this increase in consumption requires a rise in production to meet demand. He emphasized the importance of teaching the next generation about farming to secure growth for the industry.

Industry leaders need to teach “the importance of applying good practices of farming techniques, and strategies to protect the coffee from diseases and pests, in addition to knowing the varieties that must be grown in order to achieve high productivity and reduce crop losses,” he stressed.

During the same session, Radi Al-Faridi, deputy director general of the National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture, discussed the importance of cooperation of all authorities in agricultural integration.

“The definition of agricultural sustainability includes all environmental, social and economic aspects,” Al- Faridi said.

“Currently coffee is considered the second-largest traded commodity in the world after oil, with the global coffee market value reaching $102 billion in 2020. It is expected that the coffee market will continue to grow to reach a rate of 4.28 percent during the period 2022-2026, as we find that the expansion in the coffee market increases so will the pressure on coffee supply chains,” he said.

The second session of​​ the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum welcomed a panel of medical specialists to highlight their research on the effects associated with the consumption of caffeine.

Dr. Amzaina Al-Naimi kicked off the final session of the forum, discussing a scientific paper on the effects of caffeine on mental health.

She highlighted the way caffeine contributes to the improvement of physical and cognitive performance of individuals. Al-Naimi said that a moderate (40 mg) to medium (300 mg) consumption of caffeine was a healthy way to improve alertness.

Rania Bogis, standards and regulations specialist of the Saudi Food and Drug Association, highlighted the various components in the different types of coffee that are present in the Kingdom and the safety measures and the proper storing methods that will prevent them from producing any harmful or poisonous elements.

“Supportive dates should be written on all products, the type of beans must be written, the types of roasting included even the types of grinding,” Bogis stressed.

“For instant Arabic coffee, it must be written on the packaging and the mix label, the additives must also always be clearly written as an additive,” she said.

The forum concluded on Sunday afternoon, with the Ministry of Culture highlighting 10 achievements the gathering accomplished.

The forum was designed to examine the challenges related to Saudi coffee in the value chain, the insight of farmers, obstacles they are facing as well as the ways to support and spark the entrepreneurship industry contributing to Saudi coffee on an international scale.

Closing the forum, Raed Alsufyani, the director of data management at the Ministry of Culture, highlighted 10 concepts discussed during the two-day event that will contribute to the sector.

1. Considering the accession of Saudi Arabia to the International Coffee Organization to exchange experiences.

2- Cooperating with international organizations related to research and promoting the field of scientific research for coffee.

3- Holding a special annual forum to discuss the advantages, aspirations and achievements of coffee.

4- Studying the launch of specialized indicators in cooperation with stakeholders to monitor support for the industry in this sector.

5- A day dedicated to celebrating coffee in the Kingdom.

6- Enhancing the role of farmers to improve production and sector sustainability.

7- Supporting the innovation and entrepreneurship industry to support the value and sustainability of Saudi coffee.

8. The presence of potential in the Kingdom to be in the first place for the manufacture and trade of coffee with unique specifications, including the coffee fruit and its strategic location.

9- The consideration of establishing an electronic magazine for Saudi coffee.

10 - Allocating an annual award for the best efforts, in all its diversity and in the media and culture, to contribute to the Saudi coffee sector.